Threshold Theater, with the assistance of a grant from the Midwest Regional Council, produced Tom Mellett's play Cosmic Eggs and Quantum Bacon at the University of Texas at Austin in November, 1989. Between three and four hundred people attended the play, including some from as far away as Colorado, California, and Bermuda. The plot involves Sir Francis Bacon and Leonardo da Vinci trying to reincarnate as twins in Austin, Texas. Inevitably, there are complications, requiring the discarnate twins to consult with God and the husband, with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.
Because one mission of the production was outreach, I chose to report this event through the eyes of members of the audience and one of the actresses who had some previous experience with Threshold Theater. The following impressions were slightly edited for length.
(attorney and producer of Cosmic Eggs)
"I found Cosmic Eggs and Quantum Bacon an imaginatively conceived and brilliantly executed feast of ideas about the nature of reality in the guise of a play. The important ideas it explores are recognizable as inspired by the writings of Rudolf Steiner by those familiar with his work, but the audience's interest and appreciation are not dependent upon such familiarity. The presentation is provocative but virtually painless, combining lyricism with witty repartee. all encased in a dramatic setting that is both humorous and engaging.
I found the play so stimulating and enjoyable that I had to return for a second performance. This time, I organized an excursion with a group of friends, all of whom appreciated the play. I also recommended it to the students in my graduate and undergraduate classes in international relations. Many of my students went to it and later thanked me for the recommendation."
David V Edwards,
Professor of Government,
University of Texas at Austin
"I have seen Tom Mellett's "metaphysical romantic comedy," Cosmic Eggs and Quantum Bacon twice. I went a second time in order to gain a deeper appreciation of what the play had to offer. For, unlike many modern plays, this one succeeds in amusing and instructing the spectator at the same time. Even those unschooled in the epistemological issues at work in the play nevertheless find themselves following plots in which the rationalism of modern science, historical determinism, and metaphysical speculation all cross paths. The upshot resembles Carl Jung's treatment of Job: both God and humanity should redeem one another over the course of divine and human history. This weighty message is delivered through the most delightful machinations of great minds scheming to achieve reincarnation as children of an Austin couple. The McMahons- who, as their name suggests, represent the present state of humanity-must decide whether they wish to participate in this notion of divine and historical progress, God (who speaks charmingly in the verse of Classicism in contrast with human prose) gives Priscilla McMahon the freedom to choose to further humanize and divinize history or not. The whole story unfolds to much laughter and an occasional tear as when Einstein movingly tells us what it feels like to "die" ---- to thin out and expand to the size of the universe and how lonely it is until someone you know thins out and expands along with you.
In addition to the play's comic narrative and philosophical underpinnings, it has the additional virtue of presenting these in a structurally sophisticated form. At a time when many playwrights seek to free themselves from the simple, one-dimensional narrative by experimenting with flashbacks and flashforwards, Mellett opts for the interplay of two separate realities. And he has cleverly made the narratives of these seemingly separate realities intersect thanks to the exercise of free will by God, Priscilla McMahon, and by the great scientists who choose reincarnation. The play is a philosophical, linguistic, and dramatic feast."
Lecturer, Government Department,
The University qf Texas at Austin
"Cosmic Fggs and Quantum Bacon surprised me because of the way language was used. I wouldn't have believed it possible for a playwright today to pull off a three hour mostly blank verse play with one major character speaking only in rhymed couplets. I had assumed that such verse dramas had gone the way of codpieces and powdered wigs. But I never felt myself slumping under the weight of lumbering lines or flinching at untoward rhymes.I had no idea at the time that the play's theme drew on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, or anthroposophy, of which I am still basically ignorant. However, being of a literary bent, I related to the play more as a metaphorical depiction of the perilous state of the world and an exploration of the possibilities for salvaging our future on earth. As I write this, I think of the book I just finished re-reading, The White Goddess, by Robert Graves, an interpretation of poetic myth through the ages. It concludes with the author positing that the world is now being ruled by a triumvirate of gods: Pluto, the god of wealth, Apollo, the god of science, and Hernes, the god of thievery. Yet the goddess of nature and of poetic inspiration is by no means out of the picture; she is on the way back. So, thinking back to the play, I can see the parallel, with the masculine domination of science and the arts being only one of life's phases which is passing on (we hope) to a more balanced time.Thus Ton Mellett's portrayal of God as a woman poet who is even now transforming the hard-shelled male ego into something we can live with through celestial family planning. Godspeed!, eggs, and Amen."
Austin Community College
"How to describe Cosmic Eggs from an actor's standpoint. Hmmm ... Unique. Unnerving. Exhilarating. Frustrating. Possessive. Sublime. Yes, I think that about covers it. Is that the usual reaction I have towards a show-no. But because of how Cosmic Eggs came into being, the playwright's deft touch with dialogue, the underlying depth of meaning in the text, and the almost frightening affinity I came to have with my character, this play became more than just a challenging exercise of my craft. It opened up a new sphere of possibilities to me, both as an actor and as a person...
... Did I forget to mention Albert? I'm sure you've heard of him. Albert Einstein? He was the character that I played. I bet I also forgot to mention that I'm female. Sorry about that. You see, it was never an issue. I was just Albert who happened to be female this time around. Maybe that opened him up to some things he hadn't had access to when he was male, maybe not, but his essence, whatever it was that made him the tremendous human being that he was, transcended something as trivial as gender. And somewhere in the course of Cosmic Eggs' growth, I found a real connection with Albert. Sometimes, especially when I was playing the violin. I could hear him run screaming into the cosmos, perhaps never to return. Whatever he is now, wherever he is now, there were moments when I did what I did as Albert, not because it was good theater, of because it got a laugh, but because I could feet Albert looking out of my eyes or my heart and I did what he would have done. That sounds fanciful, maybe even theatrical, but it comes from the bottom of my heart. I will treasure those moments all my life....
Karen Horan, Actress