Searching for an Elusive meaning

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When viewing theatre, one person's masterpiece is another person's flop. When a play leaves an audience searching for answers and questioning the true meaning of it all, sometimes that play can be perceived as a thought-provoking, noteworthy piece of theatrical art. On the other hand, when a play leaves the audience searching for answers and wondering if the playwright actually knew exactly the direction they themselves were heading, well, that piece of art doesn't perform so well.

That Elusive Spark falls somewhere in the middle, leaving its viewers questioning what the "elusive spark" is and how they go about finding it. The problem is, it was so unclear as to the meaning of the so called "spark" it seems the playwright really may not have been completely sure herself.

Spark tells the story of Helen, a young psychology professor with major psychological issues herself, including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. This story is intertwined with the tale of Phineas Gage, who had a horrible accident in 19th century New England when a tamping iron was shot through his cheek and passed through his brain. Gage survived for many years after the accident, even with the incredible damage done to his brain. Helen shares two links to Gage: Helen's grandfather is the physician who cared for Gage after the accident and she also suffers from many of the same debilitating psychological problems.

The play is part comedy, part romance and part tragedy, but is at its best during its humorous sections. The actors perform admirably, the dialogue is top-notch and had the play ended after the first act or continued along the same track, it probably would have been more satisfying. The second act is where the real confusion begins to creep in. Gage's tragedy completely alters his personality, which affects his relationships. This is cross-sectioned with a study of mood-altering drugs and a dependency to anti-depressants. Instead of this seeming appropriate, where the audience's confusion mirrors that of the character, it muddies the audience's interaction with the story.

All the while, there is no real definition of what the "spark" is. Maybe it was easy to find, but in this case the play left too many questions unanswered when the lights went down, making the only elusive quality overall satisfaction.