Despite its somewhat daunting title, “The Giant Void in My Soul” — which is being presented, in its regional premiere, by Luna Stage in West Orange through May 22 — is easily accessible and quite life-affirming, with lots of clever twists and a poetic sensibility. The writer, Bernardo Cubría, takes on the biggest of subjects — man’s search for meaning, for lack of a better phrase — with a winningly impish sense of humor.
The two central characters, Fool 1 and Fool 2 — played with wide-eyed warmth and a touch of innocence by Darin F. Earl and Valerie Terranova, respectively — are close friends who have a vague way of talking. This seems odd at first but helps their story seem universal. Fool 2, for instance, describes a marriage proposal as “some collection of words about life and meaning and things of that nature” and says the couple, at their wedding, “danced until it was time to get on a plane to a foreign body of water.”
Early on, Fool 1 talks about fear and paralysis. Soon, behind a curtain, they discover “the giant void in my soul.”
Fool 2: “What a thing to discover.”
Fool 1: “How could I have missed it?
Fool 2: “Hey, at least you found it.”
Fool 1: “I guess so.”
Fool 2: “Better than never finding it.”
Being fools, they then go off, in fable- or myth-like fashion, to fill up the void — in segments focusing on food and alcohol, religion, political wokeness, work, love, parenthood and more. Needless to say, nothing really works, though they do emerge a bit wiser, from all of their travails, by the end of the play.
Joining Earl and Terranova in the cast are Jesse Castellanos and John P. Keller; they are identified in the program as “Performer 1” and “Performer 2,” respectively, though they first appear onstage, in a kind of prologue, as clowns. (Two fools and two clowns: What more do you need?) In the prologue, they … clown around. This doesn’t really have anything to do with what follows but helps get the audience in the mood for the somewhat playful and whimsical tone of the rest of the play.
After the Fools appear, Castellanos and Keller become essential supplementary players, changing characters in each scene, depending on what is needed — becoming everything from a bartender to a baby to a religious leader who swindles the Fools. While the Everymen/Fools generate wry chuckles as they proceed, with eternal hope, along their path, the Performers get most of the big laughs.
This play represents a delicate balancing act, and this production, directed by Rajesh Bose, gets the tone just right. This “Giant Void in My Soul” is profound but not heavy-handed about it; seriously philosophical but also consistently engaging.
“Clowns do not challenge our humanity but celebrate it — I invite you to join us in that celebration, front footed and open hearted,” Bose writes in the program.
Luna Stage will present “The Giant Void in My Soul” through May 22; visit lunastage.org.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.