Originally entitled The Caveman Cometh, The Rubik's Cube is a dark comedy in the spirit of Monty Python involving British philosophers and American paleontologists, flare guns and stopwatches, previously-frozen cavemen and not-quite-so-frozen chickens. It's also a play about life and death, friendship and future and what to do when faced with the inevitable.
In this case, the inevitable is a terminal disease called the Acronym, which the two British men have contracted from an infected pomegranate in India. Dennis (Shawn Verrier), the philosophy-spouting leader of the two, hatches a plan to postpone death by traveling to Antarctica, figuring that he and his loyal assistant, Clarence (Sean Garahan), will live longer in a colder climate.
Each of them has a task they are striving to fulfill before they go. Dennis has the lofty goal of writing the next great novel, but he can't seem to get past the first sentence. Clarence just wants to solve his Rubik's cube.
Their plans, however, are quickly marred by the appearance of a paranoid American paleontologist (PJ McCabe) dragging a frozen caveman (Quincy Ellis) back to civilization to change the idea of human migration and become famous forever. Misunderstandings ensue and suddenly death is not as comfortable for Dennis and Clarence as they thought it would be.
In the midst of the play's zany humor, convoluted philosophies on life and death and rapid-fire dialogue, Rubik's Cube manages to address deeper elements, including the close friendship between two lifelong pals, their struggle to cope with death and the ways each of them want to be remembered after they're gone.
Rubik's Cube essentially tackles this serious question: after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, how does one spend the rest of one's life?
Here it is the men differ: Dennis wants to prolong his existence as long as possible to finish a work that will make him famous, and Clarence prefers to be somewhere pleasant-and warm-but would sacrifice comfort to die in the company of a friend.
The embedded message is to stop always looking ahead and realize the priceless gifts you have now. Kimberly Barrante, Cube's playwright, says, "We have to be present in the time we're living, not thinking about what people will be thinking of you in the future, like Dennis is."
Joe Antoun, an acting professor at Emerson who also directs the NewFest winner each year, hopes that the audience will appreciate both the seriousness and the comedy of the play.
"I'm hoping that they can see the humor and the darkness, how life is dark and funny," he said.
Absurdity is also a common theme in Rubik's Cube and many times the audience's preconceived notions are challenged by the play's fantastical elements. Just when the audience knows something is impossible, the play turns logic and fact around and tells them that it isn't. For instance, penguins live in Antarctica. And frozen cavemen can come alive.
Barrante hopes the absurd elements of her play will cause the audience to be less judgmental.
"I'm hoping that they'll listen a little less to their preconceptions," she says. "Intellectual smarts are so valued versus what you can get out of life. That's why the arts are so important."
The play will be performed in the Semel Theatre on April 3, 4 and 5 at 8pm with a matinee performance at 2pm on the 5.