Living In 'A Parallelogram' Universe On Stage

How do actors navigate a play in which one character can manipulate time with a remote control, changing the action -- and therefore everyone's reactions -- a smidge, or a lot? Such is the case for Celia Keenan-Bolger and Stephen Kunken in A Parallelogram, Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris' darkly comic study of time management and existential questions at Second Stage Theater.

"I've never had a part that's been so technically and emotionally rigorous as this," says Keenan-Bolger about her character's time- and mind-bending journey. The three-time Tony nominee portrays Bee, a depressed young woman who meets her much older, not-what-she-expected self, played by Anita Gillette. "I saw a number of Bruce's plays and I knew what they required, but this really has demanded even more than what I expected when I signed on," Keenan-Bolger says. "It's been one of the hardest processes I've ever gone through."

Kunken plays Jay, Bee's live-in boyfriend who is increasingly exasperated by her strange behavior. He says the play's juxtaposition of styles and ideas made rehearsing it "a wrestling match" much of the time. "Bruce's writing wants to fall into a specific time signature," Kunken says, using music as a fitting metaphor. "Actors know that it's going to be played in 16th notes but in rehearsal, until you know it, you want to play it in quarter notes and work your way up. But this play doesn't work until it's really at full speed. The melodies don't start to reveal themselves until then.