Inna Beginning is a two-and-a-half-hour play that would pack a stronger punch if it were two hours shorter.
Germs of ideas whiz about like supercharged particles in Gary Leon Hill's play, which was conceived in collaboration with composer Lee Stametz and Denver Center Theatre Company actor Jamie Horton, who also directs the piece. However, few of those bits of ideas actually take hold; those that linger longer than a second or two include time's effect on our lives, the sources of creative inspiration and the pitfalls of letting the end dictate the process rather than the other way around.
Unfortunately, the characters -- all present-day New Yorkers -- spend scene after scene pounding away at the same basic (and eternal) issues, but rarely blaze any new trails of thought or discourse. Oftentimes, they engage in the sort of dead-end, hallucinogen-induced banter that seems hilarious at midnight but is totally forgettable the next morning; most of the "discussions" make today's sitcom writers look like Stoppardian geniuses by comparison. For instance, one woman seems taken with the concept of "farting light," another waxes rhapsodic about taking the time to notice how the grass grows, and a busy executive yearns to know what would happen to the world if the atomic clock in Boulder were to be crippled by a computer glitch. (It's just a guess, but the planet would probably keep spinning, people would likely make the necessary adjustments and you could most definitely get coffee and bagels somewhere in town.)
What the play does manage to arouse is an abiding, occasionally profound fascination with the forces that shape individuality and creativity. While those might sound like flaky concepts, the actors, as evidenced by their admirably full-out performances, don't seem to think so. (Paul Michael Valley, Devora Millman, Keith L. Hatten, Shannon Koob, Michele Shay, Rodney Lizcano, William Denis and Gabriella Cavallero are the performers.) In fact, they take to the material with the sort of zeal that doesn't seem at all put on, giving you the feeling that, no matter how off-the-wall or insipid the dialogue, they know that they're exploring and unearthing some weighty concepts. One guitar-strumming ensemble member encounters a creative muse so powerful that it's awe inspiring -- especially as underscored by offstage guitarist Neil Haverstick's virtuosic riffs. And near the end of the play, another performer throws her heart and soul into a healing ceremony that raises some disquieting questions about the true origins of spirituality and creativity.
Even so, Inna Beginning wastes a colossal amount of time spelling out background motives that have brought the characters to the brink of new discovery -- when the parts that we care about are those that deal with what happens after, not before, the fateful encounters. After all, we've come to see a play, not the work done on a play. With any luck, Hill and company will have the chance to take another look at their creation and distill their findings into a journey that leaps past creativity's horizons instead of getting hung up on how involved -- or, worse, self-indulgent -- such a journey can be.
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