Playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski challenges the assumption that science is dispassionate in “Early Morning Song,” an inventive movement-theater work that premiered Saturday at Red Eye Theater.
The piece delves into a scientist’s all-consuming desire to archive her life. Will this personal history enlighten future generations — and why should it? Jendrzejewski doesn’t follow a linear path to answer this question, nor does she employ traditional character development.
Her scientist is realized through six different yet satisfyingly unified performers (Megan Burns, Kimberly Lesik, Dolo McComb, Miriam Must, Sarah Parker and Jen Scott). Their bodies contain multitudes, as revealed through Steve Busa’s thoughtful direction and McComb’s meticulous choreography.
Smartly dressed and driven by precise, orderly movement (at first), the group is like a high-functioning data system brought into organic existence. The scientist studies trees, and throughout we are reminded of their properties, classifications and exquisite Latin names. So essential to the environment and yet, like all living things, threatened by climate change.
Given the subject matter, “Early Morning Song” could devolve into dry discourse but Jendrzejewski’s perspective is poetic. Often the text is chanted and sung, and the wordplay is pleasing to the ear — until it’s not. By the end of the evening the chorus of tree names is overwhelming, spoken too quickly to absorb. But that is the point. The process of extinction is simultaneously slow and a blur. We blink and then all we value is gone.
That is the lasting power of “Early Morning Song.” First there is order, then chaos, cacophony and silence. The scientist at the heart of the story knows her time is running out and the search for a “seed” of knowledge may be futile. She cannot see the forest for the trees but sadly, we can.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities critic.