Beginning by Maurice Breslow
It is late afternoon, near dusk, in the seldom-used astronomical observatory attached to the hilltop home of Neil Markham, a fifty-one year-old astrophysicist, and his wife Rita, age forty-five, the day before their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. Neil, laptop computer at the ready, is determined to use this opportune time for them to make out their will, which he has long wanted to do but which Rita has always resisted.
They begin the task, and as they do, revisit their past. A host of memories emerges, many of them warm, loving, amusing, but as the two go deeper and deeper into matters, they probe their backgrounds and their whole value systems, gradually uncovering a dark pattern of long-harbored pain, resentment, and mutual isolation. They discover concealed aspects of their relationship and a great gulf of misunderstanding—what Neil calls a "cancer in the middle of this marriage"—centered on his dedication to a rational, evidence-based approach to life, as opposed to Rita's faith-based perspective.
As evening and then night descends, what started out as a quick and simple exercise on the eve of their "silver celebration" now brings them to the brink of separation. Shocked, appalled, yet fascinated, even exhilarated, they manage with probing and revelation about the past to claw back from the edge, and in doing so to see deep truths about themselves, each other, and one's place in the universe. Throughout, the metaphor of Neil's profession—the heavens and the search to fathom the beginning of time—pervades all.
Thus, Neil's and Rita's personal drama about the beginning and possible end of their own relationship plays out in terms of our own universal search into the source of our deepest beliefs and human relationships, and our attempts to understand the very beginning of the universe, of time, of life. The play ends in a tentative but hopeful view of our earthly place in the scheme of things.
First produced in 1998 at Theatre Kingston, Kingston, Ontario.
Keywords: marriage; science vs faith; our place in time