Trivial Pursuits, Visions & Voices Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. A number of potentially intriguing elements fail to jell in this drama by Chicago playwright Brian Alan Hill, artistic director of this new ensemble. Crammed with many hints but few discoveries, it focuses on Byrne Dante (Christopher Carrier), a master physicist who’s become a modern-day Robinson Crusoe cut off in his book-laden apartment with a childlike Friday (the comically deft E. Vincent Teninty). As they play Trivial Pursuit or watch their three televisions, Byrne tries to forget his God-defying role in creating an “infinity equation,” the key to a unified-field theory that may have yielded a doomsday weapon that consumed millions of lives. When Byrne escapes, with the unwitting help of grocery delivery girl Camille (Jill Monaco, sounding like a public service announcement), it means absolutely nothing.
Presumably influenced by Proof, Shine, and A Beautiful Mind, Hill knows how to smudge the line between genius and illness. But the little we learn about Byrne’s cold mother, government involvement, and scientific standing fails to make him interesting or the play compelling. The fact that he prefers numbers to people is a cliche passing for characterization.
It would be easy to say that Kyle Hamman’s straightforward staging robs the work of any mystery. But Hill’s sketchy script has done that already, confusing arbitrary quirks with fascinating complexity. Trivial Pursuits tells us no more than the physics equations scribbled all over the set–perhaps less.