Credit: Mandave Saini

Chimera Ensemble presents the Chicago premiere of MJ Kaufman’s 2014 drama. Four very different people decide it’s their life’s mission to be sent to Mars for the rest of their days in order to make it habitable for humanity. But in the final countdown before the “winning” candidates are chosen, each questions why they want to go and what it means to leave everything literally 142 million miles away.

One way or another, all four would-be space explorers want to be part of the mission in order to lend meaning to their lives. Omar (Arif Yampolsky) is a programmer striving to do something important, totally ignoring his partner who desperately wants him to stay. Aggie (Hannah Larson) is a directionless young woman who wants to prove to her family that she can amount to something. Eleanor (Katlynn Yost), a librarian stifled by her job and loveless life, thinks her skills would be put to better use on another planet. Bill (Brian Sheridan, in a standout performance) is an insufferable overachiever convinced of his qualifications and lacking any doubts whatsoever until it’s too late.

In short vignettes, each candidate is seen with his or her loved ones as they prepare to leave. These scenes are funny and poignant in equal measure because these are perhaps the last times these people will ever see one another. You don’t have to go to outer space to make your life mean something, the play seems to say, but the threat of such a trip sharpens one’s idea of what truly matters. Gwendolyn Wiegold directed.   v