Chris Bennion

Charming, poetic, and slyly subversive, The Boy at the Edge of Everything—a world premiere by Finegan Kruckemeyer—is, on its surface, the story of two boys who need each other. Simon (a fresh-faced and vibrant Trick Danneker), a 12 year-old living on Earth, is harried and overscheduled with math club, tae kwon do, swim class, computer club, Chinese-language homework ("Which is crazy," he tells us, "'cause when you're 12, the words home and work shouldn't even go together"), and the rest of the busyness of life. He tries to remember his parents' advice, to "try and find a minute for myself, between all the everyone-else-minutes," but it's tough when everyone else wants him to be either working or engaged in some structured, self-improving "hobby" that is really just another appendage of work. He needs a little do-nothing time.

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The other boy (Quinn Armstrong, equally fresh-faced but calmer and more reflective) lives at the far edge of the expanding universe, his house perched right on the border between Everything and Nothing, and he's bored. Though he builds intergalactic train sets, practices alien instruments ("like the Chehhhurnu, which has lots of buttons and sounds like water being emptied from a bathtub"), reads books about other planets, and "binocularises" the people living on these other worlds, he needs company.

Due to a misunderstanding, Simon's parents think he wants to be an astronaut, and they cook up an adventure. They dress him in a firefighter jacket and a diving bell, stuff him in his mom's old saltwater-float/meditation tank (from when she, as Simon puts it, went through her middle-class "transcendental Vishnu yoga phase"), and are going to shove him off the roof onto a pile of hay bales so he can experience the thrill of liftoff. Things go awry, a cache of fireworks explodes, and Simon is launched to the far end of the universe where he lands in the Boy at the Edge of Everything's garden.

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Kruckemeyer's script is full of dreamy language-bending (the Boy describes getting to know Simon: "When myselfness was all I knew, that was okay. But now that I know what otherpeopleness feels like... I miss it a bit") set against Carey Wong's deceptively simple design, which is dominated by a swooping abstraction of a shingled roof flying apart. Lighting designer Andrew Smith works magic with hot lights for Simon's hectic world, and cool, lunar blues for the Edge of Everything. (And there's a lovely sequence of Simon's trip through space that uses his inhaler, illuminated by LED lights, to represent the meditation-tank/spacecraft while actors flash lights on various sports balls so they look like planets.)

The story is very sweet, but the two boys can also be read as the doubleness of a single 12-year-old realizing that the acceleration of structured activity in his life—school, enforced hobbies, his training to become a productive adult—has alienated him from himself. Simon's brain is simply trying to reclaim some of the joyfully unproductive qualities of his early childhood. The fact that he flies to freedom in a chamber designed for meditation—where there's nothing to make, nothing to buy, nothing to do—does not seem like a coincidence. recommended