Review: Definition of Man by Nikki Muller and Jason Rosario

Doubt, optimism, and the power of language in post-apocaliptic two-hander

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Definition of Man
Published 07 Aug 2018

In a barren landscape, suggested by cardboard flooring and interestingly layered ragged costumes, a love story of sorts unfolds. For all we know, the nameless characters—played by the show's LA-based creators, Nikki Muller and Jason Rosario—are the last two humans on earth. The pair want to communicate, but are increasingly struck by the gaps between them. Both are natural actors, giving effective emotional portrayals, and Muller has an ease of comedic delivery which provides welcome tonal balance.

A theme of the play is the need for integrated understanding of mental and physical reality, which emerges through form as well as content. JJ Mayes' clear direction is supplemented by acrobalance choreography from Tavi Stutz; spoken text is supported at times by stylised movement that emphasises verbalised concepts. Lifts, poses and exaggerated footwork are executed competently, if with a slight air of self-consciousness that contrasts with the performers' comfortable spoken delivery. 

A great script includes character monologues and dialogue, as well as literary quotations and recitation of encyclopaedia-type knowledge. Don't go expecting the mysterious absurdism of Beckett that is suggested in the promo materials, but for a philosophical exposure of a domestic crisis in identity. As the couple come to terms with the loss of the societal conventions that constructed their characters' former lives, they give us an intelligent eulogy to life as we currently know it.