Just up the street from Brattle House, where Margaret Fuller lived with her parents for a short time (known to us as the Cambridge Center for Adult Education), her grand-nephew is holding forth. "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe" is the one-iconoclast/one-genius show at the A.R.T. (runs through Feb 5).
If you're wondering what to do with your life, see this show. It's all-Bucky, 100 "topics," and completely engrossing. He thought about the history of everything, how stupid it was to call it sunrise (that's seeing things from precisely the wrong perspective); and how love is primary, primordial, pervasive.
Staging is terrific--an old-fashioned steel table, an overhead projector with transparencies, a big roll of white paper that Bucky pulls across the desk (and stage), a blackboard, a Victrola, a screen...a pen, a high-back wooden chair, family photos, and, of course, artifacts from Bucky's design science revolution. At the end, there's the night sky.
For those who know Bucky's work, you'll likely find yourself nodding at many points; you may even hear yourself completing certain sentences. Hats off to D.W. Jacobs, who wrote the play, who inhaled and then exhaled Bucky for the rest of us to enjoy and learn again.
Having listened to Bucky for many hours, I watched the show with my inner Buckolator on. Does he sound like him? Look like him? Gesture like him? Enough, Tom Derrah, who plays Bucky, more than enough. Very well done. Impersonation is tougher than characterization, I think, and Derrah, tasked with doing both, is definitely very Bucky-ish. The single simple improvement that could be made, to my mind? Walk more like a penguin. Derrah-Bucky has a more graceful gait than Bucky- Bucky. Quibble quibble.
Loved it. And then it was capped off with the second in the after-play "Bucky and Me" conversations, on the night we saw it with Allegra Fuller Snyder, Bucky and Anne's (Hewlett) daughter, who answered questions from the audience (she also appeared in home movies during the play--dancing at about age 2; she went on to be professor of Dance and Dance Ethnography at UCLA). Among the questions, the usual one for the children of famous people: what was dinner like in Fuller household? Funny, she said...
Go. Maybe twice. The monologue and visuals will stay with you, asking questions long after the performance is over.
And speaking of Bucky and me, I repost this picture from 1977, taken at our house on the night Bucky came to dinner. The newspaper folded on his lap? Boston Globe, Feb 8, 1977, my cover story in Focus (the old Ideas section), "Bucky: The Prophet Returns." He inscribed it; I framed it.