Theatrical productions are generally once in a lifetime experiences—literally. Although the script and the cast may be consistent through a run, each performance is uniquely different. The beauty of a world premiere is that a new strand of similar but distinguishably individual performances begins. Alive Theatre company member Ryan McClary has penned an original piece that has started its own strand in Long Beach. In the author’s remarks McClary confesses that his mother worked in a hospital and, “so everyday for the first six years of my life, I went to a hospital. I learned to swim in a pool not fifty feet from a locked psych ward. Perhaps that may explain this play a little. And myself a lot.” What started as “an inappropriate sketch about a terminally ill (and terminally cute) child” has developed into Entropy General, a hospital like no other, but possibly the doppelganger of some.
CSULB alum Turner Munch received the opportunity to start this new theatrical strand, and his creative visions flourish in the art gallery/stage of the aptly named MADhouse. The warehouse, “widescreen” proscenium provides a wonderful canvas for the antics that occur throughout the hospital. Ryan Phillips is a new intern at Entropy, and his integration into the insanity of this unique health center introduces us to a bevy of characters that aren’t too far off from mainstream society: a hard-nosed pediatrician (Aurea Tomeski), a desolate pathologist (Andrew Eiden), three terminally ill children inquisitive about life and death (Justin Jung, Maria Ashna, and Nicole Wright), and the chief (McClary). Sitting atop this volcanic Mount Entropy are doctors Hunter (Aaron Van Geem) and Wolfe (Nick Williams), the dynamic duo with unorthodox practices, but look like the happiest, most successful medical professionals ever created. These nurses, orderlies, patients, and corpses of Entropy General creatively expose the chaotic quicksand of head-down charging through life, but McClary’s sense of dramatic construction and Munch’s control of artistic composition whip the audience through this world like a shot in the arm that you didn’t even know happened until it was already done.
The principle of entropy is described as the energy expended that cannot be used for work. A closed system that approaches a heightened state of (comparable) equilibrium as in ice melting in a glass of water—heat goes where it is not, and the system develops, somewhat chaotically, until a point of saturation. Why do we die? Why do some die sooner than others? What makes us incapable of loving and how do we get it back? Although entropy is a concept more commonly associated with thermodynamics, emotional and mental chaos can lead to higher states of equilibrium, allowing them to be disrupted once again and for the process to start over.
Alive Theatre’s world premiere production of Ryan McClary’s Entropy General, directed by Turner Munch, is an infectiously engaging piece that will have you rolling in your seats, but will stop you in your tracks after you leave. This show doesn’t end at curtain call, its poignancy is like a vitamin wrapped in cheese—but it’s some of the best cheese you’ll get on stage in Long Beach.
Rating: 4.5 out 5 masks
Entropy General closes May 28th with three more performances. Friday, May 27, and Saturday May 28th at 8pm, and a 2pm matinee Saturday. Please click here for tickets or visit www.alivetheatre.org for more information.