You're on a book review website, so the chances are good that you're occasionally just completely gobsmacked by the beauty of a word. Maybe you've been astounded by the fact that a word like "chair" fits so perfectly with the idea of what a chair is and does. Or maybe you've been suddenly taken with the idea of the word "enormous" - eee-NOR-mous! - to the extent that you force the word into strange new contexts.
Seattle playwright Y York's The Impossibility of Now (now playing at 12th Ave Arts on Capitol Hill) is all about words: the way they work, they way they don't. The way they delight us and sicken us and confound us and please us.
The premise is straight out of an Oliver Sacks book: a bestselling science writer named Carl (played with infectious exuberance by Terry Edward Moore) suffers a brain injury that renders him amnesiac. Carl's wife Miranda (Betsy Schwartz, quietly stunning in the least flashy role in the play), a poet, learns that Carl has a different relationship with words than he used to. Where once he ghostwrote biographies for astronauts and wrote scathing critiques of anthropologists, now he simply delights in the miracle of words: their sounds, their meanings, the way they look - which he envisions as a flurry of snowflakes drifting through the air.
As Carl wanders around his Las Vegas home, trying to remember his past life, Miranda has to deal with the shambles of their marriage from before Carl's accident. She's having a complicated affair with a dentist named Anthony (Joshua Carter, bringing dignity to a character who could be hopelessly tacky) but suddenly Carl doesn't at all resemble the Carl who made her so miserable. Where before he was withholding and unhappy, now Carl is joyful and content. He's eager to see his wife, and desperate to please her. Is it too late to turn the marriage around? Is it possible to find new meaning in the words they've been using our whole lives?
The Impossibility of Now is put on by local theater company Thalia's Umbrella, and it is an entirely captivating production. Everything from the costumes to the performances to the script is designed with a literary attention to detail. It's funny and touching and endearingly sweet - a thoughtful study of the way different people interact with language, and each other. Even if you're not a regular theater-goer, the book-lover in you will respond to this play on a deep emotional level.
There are three more performances in this run of The Impossibility of Now - this Friday night, Saturday afternoon at 2, and Saturday night. Tickets are still available. Bring someone you love.