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Sci-Fi and Romance Collide Onstage with 'The Aurora Project'
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2 Jun 2017 03:30 PM EST

-by Drew Kolar, Editor; Image: Nicole Orabona and Ian Potter as Nora and Constantine in The Aurora Project (Image Source: Dawen Huang for The Navigators)

Science fiction and theater tend to be an unusual combination, but once in a while, somebody gets it right.

The Navigators, a theater company focusing on science fiction and feminism, seems to have gotten the mix figured out, if their current production, The Aurora Project, is any proof.

Founded in 2014, The Navigators—formed by Bella Poynton (playwright), Ariel Francoeur (director), and Melina Neves (actress/dramaturg)—strive to produce science fiction theater with a feminist base. While technically, the star of The Aurora Project may arguably be a male protagonist, they hold true to their background with an (almost) all-female backing. They also tackle a genre rarely explored even by their male theater counterparts.

The Aurora Project tells the story of Nora (Nicole Orabona) and Constantine (Ian Potter), a female human and a male android respectively, both on a mission to explore the universe and discover what lies beyond our world. Constantine is engineered to be Nora's companion, while she is literally born into her work. At first, a love story is implied, but as the play progresses, we learn just how intense Constantine's dedication is to his human counterpart.

Immediately, we are thrown into a situation where Nora, curious about a new world and mesmerized by a strange visitor ("The Gatekeeper," played by Amelia Fei), ignores Constantine's advice and, upon leaving the ship, becomes infected with an incurable illness. Constantine, therefore, takes it upon himself to attempt to save her by suspending them both in cryo-freeze. From here, we are taken on a journey of both past and future—spanning millions of years—as we wait to learn of Nora's fate. We also meet The Designer (Joel Austin), who created Constantine and genetically engineered Nora, as well as Questry (Michael DeSantis), an alien who aids in finding a cure for Nora as well as helps to teach Constantine about love and life.

The Aurora Project may borrow from Star Trek, but the implied love story adds much more depth to the plot. It becomes apparent that Constantine will do anything to save Nora—and his dedication seems to also be a bit of a fault. The story questions life, death, and existence in general, and leads us to question if artificial intelligence could ever grow to feel "human" emotions. Furthermore, the story makes us wonder when letting go is the better choice in a crisis. Even though there are comedic moments throughout, overall, it is an emotional rollercoaster when you get to the heart of the plot. And although, as mentioned, Constantine is the most prominent character, Nora shines through in the end as a strong and independent woman who ultimately teaches Constantine when it is time to move on.

Furthermore, The Aurora Project, though technically one act, plays out like three concise episodes of a well-written sci-fi TV show. Structurally, we get three half-hour acts that span the lives of Nora and Constantine and their adventures. While the play consists of flashbacks and extreme flash-forwards (after all, we do span millions of years), there is a definite arc that will keep the audience enthralled through the end. Director Jesse Kane-Hartnett, one of the few men behind the scenes, helps pull Poynton's story together beautifully so that there is never a dull moment throughout the 90-minute production. Whether you are a fan of science fiction, romance, or just theater in general, The Aurora Project is certainly worth checking out during its three-week run.

Presented by The Navigators, The Aurora Project will be performed at Access Theater (380 Broadway, 4th Floor) from June 2 to 17. Tickets are $25 and $18, available at http://www.navigatorstheater.com.

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