This lighthearted image of Cristin Milioti as Anna talking with her Bot Arthur in Zoe Kazan's new play After the Blast at LCT3 is somewhat deceptive. When she, at first reluctantly, agrees to "train" the Bot in lieu of being able to be approved for fertility treatments with her husband she is defensive and wary. Then as with all 'mothers', she becomes completely obsessed with every sign of incremental progress, every utterance which shows language development, every movement which indicates intelligence, or communication and motor skills. They can't go outside to the park, we are post-apocalyptic, deep underground in a global fallout shelter, hiding out with what remains of humanity. These playful interchanges between the two of them are the heart of Kazan's look into marriage and interpersonal relationships after a holocaust. In fact we too forget for a while that they are in the most dire of predicaments, and laugh and delight and hope along with Anna.
All too soon, the second act goes very dark, dystopian, filled with betrayal, anger, despair, and pessimism. Kazan has to bring us back down--or up--to earth's scorched, bleak reality.
I, along with Anna, wanted to stay on the bright side. I was tearful when she learns she has been duped by her husband so that she will pass their fertility test (even though we knew all along) but became impatient with some of their more prosaic interchanges. It can be dispiriting to eavesdrop on a tortured marriage, above or below ground. Still, my admiration for Kazan who is managing a successful dual career as both writer and actress remains high.
In these times when the renewed threat of nuclear devastation seems all too real, the play is a prescient reminder of what might befall us, and the need for vigilance.
(The LCT3 theater, by recently deceased architect Hugh Hardy --full disclosure: my husband's former partner--which I am fully embarrassed to say I had not visited before, is really a jewel and another reason to catch the play.)
Photo by Jeremy Daniel