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‘Light Waves’ a pretty heady drama at Building Stage

“Light Waves Their Uses” The Building Stage is trip through mind genius.

“Light Waves and Their Uses” at The Building Stage is a trip through the mind of a genius.

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Updated: February 25, 2011 5:30AM

The subject of “Light Waves and Their Uses,” the “semi-opera” work of dance-theater having its final performances Feb. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. at The Building Stage, 412 W. Carpenter in the West Loop, is nothing less than the nature of thought. It considers how, in a person with a truly brilliant mind, ideas can sometimes become more palpable and obsessively demanding than “real life.”

This 90-minute New Beast Theatre Works production is one of the most original, thought-provoking and, ironically, one of the more emotionally gripping pieces now on a Chicago stage.

The work of composer Joshua Dumas and director David Amaral, with contributions from their fine cast of seven young performers, “Light Waves” was inspired by the life of Albert Michelson (1852-1931), a German-born Jew whose family came to the United States when he was 2. Michelson, who taught at the University of Chicago, did crucial work on measuring the speed of light and became the first American to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences.

Far from autobiography, this is a subtle, fascinating, beautifully imagined evocation of abstract thought that contains an unforgettable dinner scene in which the scientist’s wife (the luminous Nicole Ripley), three daughters and experimentalist E.W. Morley (the excellent Anthony De Marco) and his wife gather at a table whose top literally flips. As it does, plates disappear and we enter the realm of the inner calculations of this genius (Jon Stuzman is ideal as Michelson), with a “ballet” of the diners’ arms suggesting light waves in motion.

Tickets: (312) 491-1369.

Hedy Weiss

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