R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) Of The Universe, written adapted and directed by D.W. Jacobs, and performed by Ron Campbell has been touring the country since its inception, right here in San Diego from 2000 to the present. In honor of the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 40th anniversary, Doug Jacobs, founding father along with now artistic director, Sam Woodhouse has brought his signature piece back home for a tour that has been extended through April 10th.
For subject matter many would consider out of the realm of everyday conversation in 2000, let alone a staged monologue/tour de force, this repeat of an earlier production is one to brag about even though seemed to go on for about a half hour too long. Campbell so immersed himself then as now into the character of Fuller or ‘Bucky’, that as an audience member, his message so convincing, I wanted to cheer and start working on all the ‘fixables’ this dynamo explored.
The possibilities he perused in trying to make the Universe “effective on behalf of all humanity” are more urgent now than in the past. It’s evident from his ‘lecture’ then if you will, on the need to save humanity that he had much more insight into the dangers of world poverty and global warming than most would or will care to admit. His ideas on renewable energy were way ahead of his time referring to himself as ‘the property of the universe’.
In spite of the fat that his ideas were so controversial at the time and he was asked to leave Harvard twice, Fuller was “awarded 25 U.S. patents, authored 25 books, received 47 honorary doctorates in the arts, science, engineering and humanities, and circled the globe 57 times, reaching millions through his public lectures and interviews”. Today there are over 300,000 domes.
For those, who like yours truly, had given little if any thought to the geodesic dome, the term “Spaceship Earth” or the Dymaxion Map, you will broaden you horizons by learning more about this charismatic man and his philosophy. Ron brings to life a series of subjects that Fuller was recognized for in a way that is awe inspiring and fascinating.
His style is low keyed and there is always something else that you know he wants to say. His mannerisms, tapping his fingers together, looking up at the ceiling and circling the stage as if on a carnival ride hopping off and on at will are all so natural and matter of fact that one wonders what Campbell does to unwind.
Over the years, Bucky has been played by a series of actors in other arenas and in other states. Having seen Campbell in the original production brought back memories of that first night and the awe I felt at the time. His motions, gestures and demeanor are more cemented into the character, as Campbell and Fuller are one and the same.
What continues to amaze is that after all these years, Campbell is still passionate about the subject matter. His telling and retelling never seem to stale, his enthusiasm in his narration about his findings are just as fascinating. Added information that was found in archives about his relationship with his young daughter Allegra, whom he claims taught him to move and dance when he spoke was added in 2001-2. In 2008 home movies of his family were added in Portland. All this plus the talk of the loss of his first child and his period of depression add to his multidimensional character making him more human rather than a scholar, scientist and inventor giving a scholarly lecture to a class he expects all will understand.
And that takes us to another level. In another review of another play I confessed that I was brain dead when it came to understanding physics. Well…I have to admit that I am doing a little better with Fuller. I understand the concept of ‘Spaceship Earth’, global warming, rudders on ships, world poverty and even the expansion of the triangle to become the Geodesic dome, but don’t expect an explanation back. I know my limitations. I also got the fact that he says that there is no up or down or north or south, just IN or OUT, but I’ll stick to my own beliefs. Well… we all have our own idiosyncrasies.
The set and lighting design by David Lee Cuthbert is more sophisticated and filled with more objects than I remembered but the triangle still remains at the center of all his ideas and inventions. The use of projections (Jim Findlay) is much more in evidence than in the first time with the use an overhead projector for demonstrations of his ideas and family photographs.
Otherwise the large stage is sparse with a hand- operated standing victrola, a table, chair and chalkboard with scribbling’s of ideas on it and a huge screen in the background with projections. At times it was TMI for this reviewer, but the play and this production still come highly recommended.
In his 1970 book, I Seem To Be A Verb, he wrote: I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing-a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process- an integral function of the universe.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through April 10th
Organization: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Tour de Force
Where: 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
Ticket Prices: Start at $60.00
Venue: Lyceum Theatre