If one of the benefits of the Source Festival is discovering new playwrights, the Volcanic in Origin, written by Gregory Hischak, does it right. The performance comprises seven different scenes, featuring seven different scenarios, with nature being the only constant theme. It’s not so much a single play with a single theme but more of a highlight reel for all parties involved.
The play’s first vignette centers on Lewis and Clark, only here Lewis is the dominant leader and Clark his lovable sidekick. When they lose their map and Lewis is to blame, the men come together in more way than one. The second scene takes place on the side of a mountain. A father is driving his daughter home from rehab. Their relationship is tenuous and reminded me of most of the people I spent time with in high school. We’re then taken to a nature preserve, a designated terrible place, and introduced to rangers that don’t want to let go. Act 1 ends with a pair of criminals holed up in an Oregon motel, together because of circumstance, not love.
Lewis and Clark return in the second, except this time we’re in the future, the forest is highly polluted, and roles are reversed. They’re now a couple of dudes on a vision quest, searching for hot springs of sulfur. After leaving the forest, we’re taken to a coffee shop in a small Michigan town. Inspired by This Is Your Life, Dateline: To Catch a Predator, and Mulholland Dr., this is the only scene which features all four actors. The play ends with a middle-aged married couple, quite surprised to see that the ocean has risen all the way to their house. We’re left with a couple, still somewhat in love, floating together, still trying.
Volcanic in Origin could also work on the 10-Minute Play nights of the Source festival, with each vignette feeling like the work of a different writer. But the best set-ups also feel deserving of their own 90-minute plays.
The play runs June 19 at 8 p.m., June 24 at 9 p.m., June 28 at 8 p.m., and July 3 at 4 p.m. at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $20. sourcedc.org.