OVERWINTER (Azuka): A laboratory for important ideas

Overwinter Azuka
Photo by Joanna Austin.

Azuka Theatre presents Overwinter, an interesting new play by local playwright Mackenzie Raine Kirkman; it’s about important ideas, making it a welcome change from the domestic drama of family trauma.

At the start we hear buzzing—not the cartoon bee noise but a pervasive, ambient sound.  We’re in a lab where two scientists are researching the causes of  the causes and consequences of bee extinction and its existential threat to humanity.  One bee escapes into the room and we watch Logan follow its —no, “her”—path through the air as it briefly lands on him. And then, she “talks.”  As he discovers how “smart” she is, trying to convince his lab partner that this is an astonishing species-to-species breakthrough and not merely anthropomorphizing, we are caught up in the problem of how to perform scientific research on creatures we might fall in love with.

There are a couple of glaring flaws in the script: the stink that we’re to believe pervades the room turns out to be from a pastry (which surely wouldn’t smell but just get stale and if it smells so awful, why just throw it in the wastepaper basket?); this causes a huge argument between the two men,  complete with temper-tantrum stage wrecking, which is both implausible and time-wasting. Second, and even more distracting from the real issue is Logan’s long, boring autobiographical monologue.

The third crucial flaw is that the big scientific ideas—“overwintering” which is a kind of hibernation, and species extinction— are insufficiently explained for us and are at the center of the play. 

The script presents a challenge to the director: how to overcome the two-hander problem of a static debate with the help of two strong actors: Michael A. Stahler and Frank Jimenez (excellent and funny). Reva Stover meets that challenge so there’s enough tennis match action as we follow the arguments from stage left to stage right. 

The lighting effects (Lily Fossner) give us a splendid conclusion.

[Azuka Theatre at the Proscenium at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street] February 29-March 17; 2024; azukatheatre.org

One Reply to “OVERWINTER (Azuka): A laboratory for important ideas”
  1. On the money Ms. Zinman. We enjoyed the performances of Stahler and Jimenez, their on stage chemistry worked well. Your other points hit the mark, though I thought the “danish” bit spoke to Stahler’s nit-picking scientist. Monologue could use an edit, but overall the concept of what happens to a researcher when confronted with the sentience of their subjects was interesting.

    For all it’s faults I was encouraging to hear a new voice.

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