Sequence by Arun Lakra is a fascinating play that provides mental gymnastics, asks some head-scratching questions and has an interesting structure. You will be intrigued, entertained and made to think but you will not be moved very much.
We first meet Theo (Kevin Bundy) a lanky, self-assured man who considers himself the luckiest person in the world. He is extremely wealthy because he is lucky. He has even written a book about how to improve your luck. How lucky is he? Well, he has guessed the coin toss at Super Bowl games correctly some twenty times and made a tidy sum by betting on it. Most rational people would argue that you can guess a coin toss correctly about fifty per cent of the time. Well, Theo gets it right all the time. He is so lucky, he puts a gun to his head, Russian roulette style, and pulls the trigger. His luck holds. How is that possible?
Nancy Palk, Ava Jane Markus, Kevin Bundy, Jesse LaVercombe in Sequence (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Mr. Adamson (Jesse LaVercombe) writes a multiple choice test administered by Dr. Guzman (Nancy Palk), a professor and stem cell researcher, and gets all 150 questions wrong. The chances of that happening are so remote as to be beyond rational explanation. Adamson is the antithesis of Theo – he has all the bad luck in the universe. What is the explanation?
Lakra is an ophthalmologist with literary talent. He wrote Sequence in 2013 and the play has been making the rounds since.
There are two plot strands that are developed sequentially on a single set. Theo is approached by Cynthia (Ava Jane Markus), a pregnant woman who has a serious hereditary illness and is afraid that her unborn child might inherit it. She tries to figure out if there is an explanation for Theo’s luck and his reckless conduct.
Kevin Bundy, Ava Jane Markus in Sequence (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Dr. Guzman wonders if luck is part of our DNA makeup and wants to examine Adamson with a view to discovering the gene that can cause good or bad luck. Adamson prefers religion to scientific research. He believes that everything is God’s work and even if we do not understand why things happen, we must believe that God has his reasons for whatever He does.
The two plot strands stop and go usually at critical junctures. Theo and Cynthia freeze and Dr. Guzman and Adamson take over and so on. This is interesting but it is also annoying when that plotline is suddenly stopped and we have to go back to the other storyline.
Lakra tries to inject emotion and humanity into the arguments. Cynthia has legitimate concerns and fears about the fate of her child. Dr. Guzman is going slowly blind and needs to find the gene that will stop the disease. Adamson believes in God and is reluctant to provide a blood sample for her research. Unfortunately, none of the four characters become fully sounded human beings. We enjoy the numerous examples of improbable and inexplicable occurrences. There is humour and drama in the play but most of the action is cerebral.
Director Andrea Donaldson keeps a very brisk pace and has the cast that can perform at such velocity. Bundy’s Theo is arrogant, self-possessed and brags about being the luckiest man in the world. Markus’s Cynthia is aggressive, self-assured and at the same time vulnerable. The same can be said of Palk’s and LaVercombe’s characters.
The set by Jason Hand is a brightly lit room that looks like a pristine lab with an upright ladder to the side. You will also see an open umbrella indoors, hear of Macbeth and of the ancient Greek knucklebones known astragaloi. Good luck to you.
The two-story plotlines meet near the end of the play in an intriguing way and they underscore the arguments made throughout.
Sequence by Arun Lakra opened on January 11, 2017 and will play until February 12, 2017 at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario. www.tarragontheatre.com