Review: FRIGID NY Festival 2022: "StarSweeper" Goes in Quest of What Makes Us Human


Written by Mikaela Duffy

Directed by Gwendolyn Snow

Presented by TeamTheatre LLC at The Kraine Theater

85 E 4th St., Manhattan, NYC

February 19-March 5, 2022

Photo courtesy Mikaela Duffy
How far would you go to help others just because it is the right thing to do? To the ends of the Earth? Or far, far beyond? This is one of the central questions posed by Mikaela Duffy's solo sci-fi show StarSweeper, the story of one woman's (and one A.I.'s) altruistic journey to the stars. StarSweeper is currently playing as part of FRIGID New York's 16th annual festival, in which one hundred percent of the proceeds go to the artists. For a full schedule of shows, all of which can be experienced in person or via livestream, visit FRIGID New York's website.

StarSweeper introduces us to Sgt. Riley Nestor (Mikaela Duffy), who has set off across the vastness of space in the tiny starship USS Copperfield, accompanied only by the ship's A.I. assistant, O.L.G.A. (Patrick Troy-Brandt). Riley's self-appointed mission, undertaken when no one else would do it, is to locate a ship that had performed a rescue and salvage mission near an Earth-like planet before the ship dropped out of contact and vanished. As she conducts her solitary search, she keeps, in the best Star Trek tradition, mission and personal logs, a practice which also positions O.L.G.A. as a confidante of sorts. Good-hearted and determined as Riley is, she will nevertheless be severely tested by the play's end.
Photo courtesy Mikaela Duffy
As Riley, Duffy artfully leads us through the Sgt.'s emotional journey alongside her literal one, effectively, and sometimes humorously, counterpointed by Troy-Brandt's deadpan voicing of O.L.G.A. This is also a show that knows the value of expressive silences; and, relatedly, it establishes an appreciable sense of space and isolation and the passage of time, assisted by the repetition as a scene transition of an automated message broadcast from the Copperfield. Connections to history, anthropology, and Riley's own personal past underscore and flesh out the issues at play, primary of which are the need to be with others, to caring for others without the expectation of reward (the missing include someone close to Riley, but this is not the sole or even overriding driver of her mission), and of course, holding on to hope as fundamental markers of humanity. Part of that recorded message, "Please respond," thus becomes a multivalent thematic statement. If you are looking for sci-fi that's more Rebecca Sugar than Harlon Ellison, then join Sgt. Riley's mission in StarSweeper.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

More FRIGID 2022 Reviews:
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