Scientific Romances: H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds & The Invisible Man, Next Theatre Company. Give credit to adapters Steve Pickering and Charley Sherman for recognizing that turn-of-the-century visionary H.G. Wells is still significant in the digital age. His seminal treatises on the dangers of rapid, unchecked advances in science and industry are reference points for much contemporary science fiction. But staging Wells's work is no easy matter. There's the logistical headache of giving giant robots, tentacled aliens, and invisible men reality onstage. Wells's stories aren't particularly suited to a visual medium like theater: as Orson Welles's radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds proved, they're absolutely bone-chilling in the mind's eye, conjuring up nightmarish, paranoid images. Some things are better left to the imagination.
Pickering and Sherman demonstrate an ear for dialogue here, as they did in their previous sci-fi collaborations at Next, including Clive Barker's Son of Celluloid and William Gibson's Burning Chrome. But in Scientific Romances they often seem overconcerned with the idea of language as poetry. That's not as big a problem with The Invisible Man, which has enough action to ensure a brisk tempo. But the portion of the script devoted to The War of the Worlds frequently gets bogged down in expository monologues and overly philosophical soliloquies. And Pickering and Sherman's confusing attempt to interweave the two stories tends to compromise both. Despite this production's excellent acting, staging, and costumes, Scientific Romances never fully gels.