My ongoing review of Geek Theater: 15 Plays by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers will come out in short bursts. Sometimes I will devote these mini posts to a single play, other times I might discuss a couple of plays per post as in the below.

The two remaining short plays in the Geek Theater collection Rapunzel’s Haircut by Cecil Castellucci and The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly — are both reflective, taking place after the major events of the characters lives. As such, both plays run at a different tempo and exude a more contemplative energy than the earlier entries.

Rapunzel’s Haircut reunites the major players from the Rapunzel fairy tale. Rapunzel, the Prince, the Witch, and the Dragon meet yearly in what feels very much like a support group to try and cope with the traumatic events that occurred during the story. It all seems to be for Rapunzel’s benefit; she has been in a sort of blissfully catatonic daze since the end of her story. Her hair has indeed been cut and she is married to a Prince now, but he is not the one she initially fell in love with — you know, the dude who climbed up her hair and all that. No, this Prince killed that guy and Rapunzel was so traumatized that she had the Witch cast a spell on her so she wouldn’t remember the death of her lover. Now Rapunzel is trapped again, both in another tower and in a kind of half-awake half-life, married to the Prince in a cruel joke on the idea of “happily ever after.”

Fractured or post-modern fairytales are certain nothing new, so it’s admirable that despite the murder and brainwashing, Castellucci pries out of this old fairy tale a compellingly modern concept about love in the discussion of Rapunzel’s two suitors. Rapunzel’s husband Prince represents a practical (and therefore unexciting) day-to-day relationship with someone who takes care of you and knows you intimately; her deceased suitor represents a more idealized and romantic mode of love that is exciting but perhaps ultimately empty. There are some fairly tale elements, sure, but basically Rapunzel’s Haircut is a play someone who is trapped in a marriage and wishes she had run off with her old boyfriend.

Kelly’s The Promise of Space finds Kirk Anderson, a convalescing astronaut, reliving the story of his life to his Science Fiction writer wife, Zoe. Alzheimer’s has taken its toll on “Captain Kirk,” as his wife calls him, brought on by his repeated exposure to cosmic radiation, but by utilizing an augmentation headset, he is able to access his memories. The technology works by looking for “captures” he has taken throughout his life, like snapshots of milestones and small moments. This becomes increasingly more distressing to Zoe, who feels more and more that she is only talking to a database and not to her actual husband.

Kelly’s story works because it is driven by character. Anyone who has spent time with someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s will recognize and relate to this scenario — Andy and Zoe could just as easily be looking through a photo album and in fact Andy’s “captures” are depicted as slides that are projected on a nearby screen. The science fiction component adds a nice twist to this, because even though the augment allows him to behave more like his old self, Zoe knows it isn’t really “him” and so isn’t really comforted by it.

While I enjoyed reading these plays to a degree, I must confess I found myself less enthused by them in general. Both entail interesting ideas about relationships and self awareness, but as narratives structures it strikes me that they work more as thought experiments than anything else. I would love to see either of these plays staged to see if I feel the same way.


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