By George Spelvin

DEFYING GRAVITY, Jane Anderson’s ethereal play directed by Dr. John O’Connor, opened in Wallman Hall Theatre Friday evening.  Using the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster and the death of teacher in space, Christa McAuliff to organize the action, the play centers around McAuliff’s daughter before and after the disaster and other characters associated with the event.  The play then becomes one about character relationships -- McAuliff and her daughter, a tourist couple and a Cape Canaveral bar owner/waitress and a NASA mechanic.  One additional character, the impressionist painter Claude Monet, also appears to “challenge” the characters and the audience to think about how we look at things.

The script thus becomes a mosaic of scenes that director O’Connor and the design team must lead the audience through for everything to make sense.  This “challenge” is ably met by this production team.  Staged on a set designed by Troy Snyder who also designed the lighting, and multimedia effects by Nick LeJeune, the atmosphere emphasizes the ethereal which is further reinforced by the sound design and original music by Dr. Daniel Eichenbaum.

The cast numbers seven actors and is lead by the “teacher” and her daughter Elizabeth played by Lillian Gaylord and Ann Marie Witkowski respectively.  Claude Monet is played by Stephen Phillips.  The tourists from Oregon who watch the launch are played by Kate Thompson and Allen Ludwick and John Hall and Kiya Fitzgerald portray the Cape Canaveral folks.

DEFYING GRAVITY continues this week with performances at 7:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 7, 8 and 9.  Tickets may be purchased at the box office, 11:00 am to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday, or by calling (304) 367-4240.  Tickets may also be purchased on line by going to www.fairmontstate.edu/tickets.