“The interplanetary messages are not merely sound or radar telescope signals, they are revelations of personal surveillance. “

Larry Littany Litt, New York Theatre Wire

April 17, 2022

To imagine who you really are and where you originally come from is one of humankind’s greatest
goals. Contemporary social critics are always telling people that being themselves is an appropriate
starting point to live a fulfilled life. But how do we know we’re on the right track? This is the
question Italo Calvino’s novel “Cosmicomics” attempts to answer.

In the masterful hands of veteran playwright and director Ildiko Nemeth, Calvino’s many questions
as displayed in connected vignettes by superb acting and ensemble movement. Nemeth’s answer for
starters is to show the origin of the cosmos as Calvino wrote it. Not an easy job. Calvino
contemplates the entire multi-billion year History of Everything from big bangs to contemporary
little women and men.

The stunning projected animations and visuals created by Isabelle Duverger and Laia Cabrera
project a dramatic alternative reality on this journey from scientific abstractions to mankind’s
emotional confusion. The visuals ask the same questions as the novel while Nemeth’s cast plays in
and around this cosmic setting.
Nemeth’s storyteller/narrator Paul Guilfoyle sets a calm tone for exploration of the cosmic history.
His passionate tone is both very human and almost godlike. Listening to him I felt like the world
was being created for the love stories about to unfold. There’s always another love story he says.
Long time New Stage actress Jeanne Lauren Smith gives one of her funniest performances as an
evolved shore dweller who falls madly in love with a sea dwelling fish convincingly played by
roguish Justin Ivan Brown aquatically outfitted with scales and fins. It was love at first sight and

In a brilliantly comedic piece of solo vignette scientist Markus Hirnigel convinces us there is
intelligent life on other planets. The interplanetary messages are not merely sound or radar telescope
signals, they are revelations of personal surveillance. The messages and the scientist’s responses are
a laughter filled spoof on intelligent life theories. What if the aliens are just as annoying as we are?
Could we stand them and their irony? You can decide.
Several of the vignettes are ensembles showing off Nemeth’s ability to create new meanings in the
face of romantic challenges and overblown egos. Using dance as a communication between
enamored characters Nemeth matches charming young actor Tanner Glenn with experienced aerial
artist/choreographer Lisa Giobbi posing as his mythical, ritualistic, all powerful Woman-in-
White love object who vanishes when colors suddenly appear in their world. This vignette
especially was a duet of matching talent.

Each of the vignettes are worthy theatrical endeavors with their own characters and meanings. I
highly recommend “Cosmicomics” both as a transformed example of Italo Calvino’s writing and
European thinking and as an evening of engaging, inspiring theater.