REVIEW – R Buckminster Fulller, the History (and Mystery) of the Universe – San Jose Rep

Oh, R. Buckminster Fuller, how you woo me with your big words and your even bigger ideas. I guess I’ve always been a complete and utter fool for ephemeralization, I just never knew until I saw San Jose Rep’s R. Buckminster Fuller, the History (and Mystery) of the Universe how utterly fabulous life could be.  I have breathed in your scientific gospel and drank your kind, forward-thinking cool-aid. You have easily won your seat at that table of “any 7 dinner guests” or at least this version of Mister Fuller has. Where to I order my I love Bucky t-shirt? Tell me. Where?

I was braced only for an intellectual piece and a one man show last week when I walked into the Rep.  I walked out lighter, changed, positively glowing and alive with possibilities. I stood in the rain marveling at all the layers of this show for nearly an hour. The messages of this production could have so easily been depressing, controversial, angering, preachy, even boring, and yet they proved so very much the opposite. The words are overwhelmingly optimistic, urgent sure, but rather than an Inconvenient Truth like approach, the overwhelming prevailing feeling through the performance was logically, magically, hopeful. Quite possibly the most relevant collection of ideas presented in the most endearing of vehicles I’ve seen in ages. Maybe, ever. So much multisyllabic, sciencey goodness going on here, encouraging the empowerment of the individual for the survival of the best planet possible for all. And, such a variety of ways to deconstruct, illustrate and reiterate this achievable possibility in the 2 hour show. Brilliant in theory and in execution!

Our actor has a great awareness and rapport with the audience from the moment the show starts and while certainly the concepts are high level, delivered rapidly (understatement) and a few of them bound to go over one’s head (it’s okay!), there’s humor in it all and if you don’t want to hug our Bucky by minute 4, you might be dead. Charming, awkward, slightly frenetic, SMART and just so damn loveable. Our actor has plenty of street cred, but he IS Buckminster Fuller. I don’t know how he could be more perfect, he’s just exactly what I wanted. So exactly what the world needs.

I don’t know how much of the actual script is taken verbatim from Bucky’s writings/presentations (I’m woefully ignorant of his work, though determined to read it now), but the interspersing of theory and biographical information, the frantic eclectic order of the pieces mimics the unique presentation style and is wonderfully congruent with the “kooky” ideas being relayed. Credit is due certainly to the original source, but the masterful organization (and disorganization) of the material as presented on stage is admirable.

My only “criticisms” are relatively microscopic given the impact and loveliness of this show. I did find the audience participation (minimal, but still intrusive) a bit of a turn off. Same story with a few of the sound choices and projections, which more often than not seemed to distract from the attention required to absorb the depth and magnitude of the words being spoken. On the other hand a significant portion of the “overhead projections” and concept visualization through props, and scoring selections were fun and quite beautiful. This felt like a really animated lecture in parts (which I preferred) with a few forced theatrical elements thrown in at times. I suppose I’m more of a purist, so while I personally didn’t need that additional drama, I can certainly understand why it would be inserted.

This is a really exciting, stimulating, superior evening of entertainment, especially ripe for “Silicon Valley” audiences. See this show fresh, with a brain ready to receive, digest, reflect and then converse afterward extensively about life, the universe and everything. 4 ½ marvelously enthusiastic, super geeky, teach-the-world-to-sing kind of jewels out of 5 in the review tiara. R. Buckminster Fulller, the History (and Mystery) of the Universe plays through February 23rd at the San Jose Repertory Theater.

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