I am writing this on a train, which matters. Because the play I am discussing is about an (allegedly true) train ride. “Strings Attached,” starting a five-week run at Theatre Row, somehow manages to incorporate that journey, physics, magic realism ... and did I mention there is a love triangle?
“Strings Attached” was written by Carole Buggé. A poet, a playwright and a “self-described science and nature geek,” she read about an actual train trip that was taken by three scientists — two cosmologists and a particle physicist — who were on their way from Cambridge to London to see a play called “Copenhagen.”
En route, they discovered a possible new theory for that Big Bang thing. What Buggé imagines here, as well, are visitations from Isaac Newton, Marie Curie and Max Planck. (Hey, I’ve imagined Brad Pitt and George Clooney sitting across from me on the Acela, but it hasn’t happened yet.) Einstein also enters the picture, at least in theory, “using train movement as a metaphor to describe relativity,” the playwright says.
You don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy this production. The concept, in fact, was birthed at something called “Speed Pitching,” during which writers have a few minutes to rotate around a room to spin their concept to producers and directors. This one received several bids, but Buggé went with Alexa Kelly, who has directed the current production. “It sounded intriguing,” says Kelly, who is of Scottish heritage — ”and included quotes from T.S. Eliot,” so that all helped.”
“Theater, Not a Seminar”
Once Kelly, and the cast of six (who portray eleven characters) started rehearsing, “the next phase began,” she says. Her edict: “Keeping the science stuff to an understandable level was paramount. The physics should only be related to these peoples’ lives, when it illuminates human nature. This is theater, not a seminar.”
The playwright agrees, even though her first goal in life was to be a marine biologist. But she has always loved performing and writing the words for others to do so.
“When I was a kid, running around in the woods and getting poison ivy, I’d gather my friends and my siblings to pull down a clothesline as our curtain and perform something I’d written,” says Buggé.
She went on to pen books, poems, perform improv and combine her love of her own creating with her fascination with how the world itself was created.
It all came together when she read about three interesting people on a train. And now, New York audiences get to go along for the ride.
Produced by the Pulse Theatre Company, “Strings Attached” will play at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St, New York, NY 10036 through October 1.