In Continuity, the new off-Broadway play from the award-winning playwright Bess Wohl and Tony-nominated director Rachel Chavkin, time is the central theme, affecting each character in different ways. Told through the frame of a Hollywood film set, the play tackles how humans are supposed to deal with the magnitude of climate crisis, even as their lives become weighed down with personal drama.
Someone get this asshole out of my shot! yells Maria, the harangued film director and central character of the play, shortly before she picks up a prop ice pick, ready to physically defend the integrity of her movie. The events of the play have finally pushed her to the brink. Shes trying to achieve the perfect shot for the sake of continuity and faces studio pressure for her first blockbuster about climate change. Beneath her, the set spirals out of her control: her former boyfriend and screenwriter David undermines her, the lead actor Nicole challenges her and struggles with sobriety, and a humble climate crisis scientist Larry struggles to be heard. While debates about the script have tested her it is Larrys voice, the voice of impending doom, that is her undoing.
For Wohl, Continuity is very much art-imitating-life. The plays setting, a Hollywood set, came about as the playwright worked on one herself. Its essence appealed to the actor-turned-playwright on several levels. Im always interested in deconstructing those ideas about what movie making is and what theatre making is and finding new ways to look at them, Wohl told the Guardian. She further explained that this premise intrigued her because of its fixed nature.The idea of continuity in a movie set context is the idea that the shot has to stay the same all the time for continuity. But of course, thats also kind of impossible because time is moving forward. She continued: A movie set seemed like an interesting place to examine change Movies keep moments the same. It resists time and change and decay.
The indefinite preservation of moments isnt scientific, but Continuity melds storytelling and scientific fact in a way that is enjoyable for the audience but pays adequate credence to its origins. Commissioned and produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, the play was written with science in mind, as a part of the Sloan Initiative: Setting the Stage for Science and Technology. According to Wohl, there was immense pressure to get the science correct, not only for the benefit of the audience but also for the scientists who consulted on the play. The scientists couldnt figure out how to tell a story that could make people care. I was interested in looking at how you make a story that makes people care and [address] the question of science and storytelling colliding, she said.
Telling the correct narrative was pertinent to Wohl. After she was granted the commission several years ago, she feel uncertain of how she would write a play about climate crisis. I wasnt sure what my approach to climate change was gonna be because its a very daunting thing to write about or even think about. And then after the election, actually, after Trump became president, I think the urgency to write this play about science and climate change in particular felt even more acute for me. It was really after the election that I put this on the front-burner and said OK, I have to write this play about science and that science is a really worthy and important thing to be putting forth as a primary inspiration in our culture right now. Chavkin champions Wohls prioritization of climate crisis, telling the Guardian, I dont think anyone who is living in mainstream America is living with the truth of how to helm the change thats required, if we dont wish to see the likely end of humanity as we know it. And that sounds very, very dire, but I think that is the place that the play is operating in.