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Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 19, 2024

Emily Woof
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Dottie and Dottie could not be less alike. He (let's call him Dottie 1) is a tight-assed neuroscientist whose life is pretty much wrapped up in his research. Not what you'd call a social butterfly. His polar opposite is his wife (let's go with Dottie 2), a free spirit, easily distracted and generally happy to embrace whatever comes her way. They've been together for quite a long time, long enough so that his propensity to control things (and her) is something she can pretty much ignore as they go about their business. Until their worlds collide, that is. That's the setup for Blizzard, a fascinating solo piece written by and starring Emily Woof, opening tonight as part of the Brits Off Broadway season at 59E59 Theaters.

It's a short work, Blizzard, a first-person narrative running just about an hour in length. It is told by Dottie 2, who, fortunately for us, is affable and outgoing. As far as Dottie 1 is concerned, she is, as well, the instigator of his life's work, the study of the phenomenon of neuronal avalanches in the brain. Look it up if you are curious, but I should warn you, it is as arcane as it gets, something to do with bursts of cerebral electrical activity, not well understood even by those who study it.

Dottie 2 apparently has these with some frequency. Her husband studies them by analyzing brain scans. She helps us to visualize them through a series of short random dances (accompanied by dissonant clanging) between what you might think of as separate scenes.

The bulk of the play has to do with a dense but major paper Dottie 1 has written, titled "Criticality, Connectivity, and the Neuronal Avalanche." He is supposed to present it at a conference in Switzerland, but an illness prevents him from going. Still, not to worry, he says. Dottie 2 can go and read it to the assembled audience. The fact that she does not understand it should not be a problem. And, anyway, there are slides.

Dubious but willing, Dottie 2 goes off to Switzerland, where she decides it would be best to abandon the dry-as-dust report and explain it in her own words. That's where things get really interesting, as she attempts to substitute her ideas for her husband's. Later, she also spends time with an exuberant performance artist who earns extra money by selling souvenirs at the nearby Nietzsche Museum and touting sponsors like "Humvell Beer, which has a fresh taste and a smooth malty finish."

By now we have now entered into the more surreal realm of theatre of the absurd. Everything that follows takes us deeper and deeper into Dottie 2's mind, culminating in an actual avalanche that collides with her neuronal avalanches. It all makes for a wild ride, to be sure, but thanks to the personable Emily Woof and the easygoing direction by Hamish McColl, it's all quite compelling, even when that thing we call "reality" takes a holiday.

Through June 30, 2024
59E59 Theaters, Theater C, 59 East 59th St., New York, NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: