On each of South Coast Repertory's two main stages, there is a play enjoying its world premiere, both coincidentally dealing with highly technical subjects.
But while Lauren Gunderson's "Silent Sky," on the Segerstrom Stage, fails to fully project a degree of humanity through its fascination with the universe, Itamar Moses' "Completeness," on the Julianne Argyros Stage, beautifully employs its technological jargon to further its plot and thoroughly entertain its audiences.
"Completeness" focuses on the efforts of a computer scientist (Karl Miller) to solve a complex technical problem while launching an affair with a fellow grad student (Mandy Siegfried). Their scientific communication is terrific, but connecting in the area of romance proves more difficult for these techno-nerds.
Skillfully directed by Pam MacKinnon, "Completeness" rarely takes itself too seriously. It matters little whether or not the audience comprehends the dialogue about algorithms, megabytes and microbes, only that we appreciate the personal awkwardness this relationship has created.
Miller's young computer whiz Elliott is a complex character, which the actor interprets brilliantly. His dialogue consists of long, involved passages of tech-speak, which Miller wraps his tongue around with ease while pursuing a slippery romance in an exemplary performance.
As Molly, the grad student who cashes in her relationship with a boorish instructor to connect with Miller's character, Siegfried is quite radiant. She's especially effective as she attempts to illustrate her emotions in analytical terms. The word "love" is never mentioned by either character.
Jonathan McClain excels as her self-involved former lover and two other minor characters, while Brooke Bloom also plays three roles — most pungent in an early moment using baffling female logic to repel Miller's confused advances.
The SCR production succeeds in breaking the fourth wall on two occasions, one of which is an apparently scripted blackout late in the show, bringing McClain and Bloom up front to apologize to the playgoers for the interruption.
The second occurs before the play begins with the recorded announcement asking audience members to silence their cell phones. Miller, who's been silently onstage at his computer, proceeds to access his and turn it off.
A major reason for the success of "Completeness" is Christopher Barreca's multi-phased set design, blending the show's home and office environments with smooth transitional ease. Lighting effects, designed by Russell H. Champa, also greatly enhance the production, harsh as they often may be.
You may not know an algorithm from an Algonquin Indian, but that won't keep you from laughing out loud at this brilliantly conceived production at South Coast Repertory.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.
If You Go
Where: South Coast Repertory Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 2 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays , until May 8
Call: (714) 708-5555