“The Equation” presented by Theatre 9/12

This is a play for the sophisticate, for those who enjoy unraveling a mystery. Written and directed by Charles Waxberg, it’s a play that starts at the end and gradually reveals the issues that led up to that ending. Thus it’s confusing. “What’s this about?” you’ll ask yourself, as you try to unravel the plot and gradually put the pieces of this compelling story together.

On stage is a bassinet sitting before a window behind which towers the almost-finished Empire State building. As the play opens, two women in elegant 1930s day attire walk out and stand either side of the stage, stand motionless and emotionless. But that will change. This play resonates with emotion.

As they stand stone-faced, out strolls a man below the stage into a comfortable “room” set up right in front of the audience. “My name is Arash,” he says, before asking the audience what they’ve not figured out. He’s addressing us in 1959, and will continue to address us before the eight scenes from 1931, each one earlier than the last.

Mishka Navarre-Huff’s costumes epitomize the period. Robin Macartney’s effectively minimalist set establishes the sleek elegance of the period. In a nice touch, its centerpiece, the Empire State Building gets lower and lower as each scene goes back in time.

Monica Finney and Colleen Carey whom you might say are both mothers, bring passion as well as reserve to their roles. Theatre 9/12 (one of Seattle’s little gems) is known for the quality of its acting, and this taut production is no exception.

The concept is fascinating. By the end, most of the questions have been answered, but there are still issues about which I, at least, was not sure, about which I may never be sure. And I think that’s the playwright’s problem not mine. However, I’m still thinking about it, still wrestling with what I’ve seen and heard. And that is the sign of a good evening at the theatre.

Through Feb. 15 at Trinity Parish Church, 609 8th Ave., Seattle (206 332-7908 or info@theatre912.com).

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