“I wonder if medicine is less prone to save an unexamined life.”
— Unlucky Nick
How do we define ourselves? What traits do we admire, what talents do we cultivate? And what happens if we pick the wrong things?
In “Thinking It,” playwright-in-residence Carter W. Lewis examines the intoxicating power of love as well as the choices — deliberate and otherwise — that shape who we become. Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present the world premiere drama in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre Nov. 17-20.
“We all want to build identities around something,” Lewis said. “To love is to know an irrefutable thing about yourself. Even if that love is not requited, an overwhelming passion can give a sense of purpose. ‘I love, therefore I am.’
“But is that hunger good or does it misdirect? Does it lead to epiphany or to self-delusion?
“If you think it, is it true?”
‘I could be the love of your life’
Set in an unnamed hospital, the story begins with an improbable meeting. Unlucky Nick, having tripped out a window, lies in a state between life and death. There — somehow — he encounters Connie, a young woman who has inhabited the same state since losing her family in a train wreck.
“Nick has been in this space, which they call ‘Liminality,’ for three days; Connie has been there for 11 years,” Lewis said. “They meet, they fall in love, and that love is powerful enough to awaken them both. But they don’t remember meeting. All they remember is what they felt.”
For Connie, that feeling coheres into an itchy eagerness — a fire splashing flames towards something just out of reach. For Nick, it represents a profound sense of connection and belonging.
“It’s the best feeling he’s ever had,” Lewis explained. “He’s afraid he’ll lose it. So he decides to go back.”
What happens next is bittersweet, though Lewis noted that the play is frequently humorous. Connie and Nick are inflamed with passion but “move towards one another very clumsily. They keep choosing the wrong things. But I think that happens a lot in life.
“We’re always in motion, we’re always in transition,” Lewis said. “Even if we’re convinced that we know who we are, the next day, we might not be that thing quite as much.
“Or we might be that thing a little bit more.”
Cast and crew
“Thinking It” marks the seventh collaboration between Lewis and director Andrea Urice, senior lecturer in drama — and their fifth collaboration for the PAD.
The cast of five is led by Carly Rosenbaum and Zack Schultz as Connie and Unlucky Nick. Also starring are Yaala Muller as Nurse Madelyn, Connie’s longtime caregiver, and Taylor Jordan Brantley as Nick’s mother, Helen. Rounding out the cast is Danny Marshall as Doctor Hoskins, who watches over both patients — and who alone seems to intuit their connection.
Scenic design is by Ricardo Solis. Costumes are by Lia Slaton, with assistance from Jacque Randolph. Lighting and projections are by Sean Savoie; sound is by Jon Zielke, with original music by Ethan Evans.
Assistant director is Juliette Hourani. Technical director is Mike Loui. Stage manager is Ji Hyun Ahn, with assistance from Maddie Seibold. Props master is Emily Frei.
“Thinking It” begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19 and 20.
Performances take place in A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $20, or $15 for students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and $10 for WashU students. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office.
For more information, call 314-935-6543.