Its title presents a delicious duality. On the one hand, “Omniscience, ” by Canadian playwright and journalist Tim Carlson, is a futuristic yet topical tale concerned with the moral, intellectual and psychological consequences of big-brother surveillance on everyday lives. On the other, the piece itself is elliptical and seems intent on raising more questions than answering them—a tactic that compliments rabble-rousing political theater hell-bent on raising awareness rather than reaching conclusions (back home in Vancouver, Carlson is also artistic director of troupe Theatre Conspiracy—‘nuff said). The action is quite simple: in the not-so-distant future privacy is a joke and paranoia reins supreme. Trying to maintain hope and veracity in this dystopian climate is Warren (Cory A. Kresbach), an editor struggling to piece together questionable war footage for a propagandist documentary while contending with a mentally unstable wife, a veteran of said war (Cat Dean) whose post-traumatic stress disorder may have its origins in some ugly truths threatening to bring down corporations, governments and Warren himself. Although the sci-fi aspect gives “Omniscience” a semblance of originality, its agitprop passions are rarely accompanied by fresh ideas or new points of view—they’re just relayed in imaginative ways. And if Carlson’s writing sometimes suffers from too self-consciously theatrical dialogue, his fire and brimstone, increasingly rhythmic battle-of-the-wills exchanges more than compensate. Director Kevin Heckman’s Stage Left production—the company’s 100th—boasts a chilling atmosphere and ambiance, dominated by a huge television screen that symbolically towers above the action, and he has imbued each of Carlson’s taut episodic scenes with fluidity and focus. Christine Gatto and Brian Plocharcczyk round out the strong quartet, and everyone’s unwavering commitment to the material ensure an absorbing moment-to-moment vitality. Performances well-worth experiencing, and a writer to watch. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At the Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield, (773)883-8830. This production is now closed.