Saturday, June 12, 2010


I got a chance to see "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) Of The Universe" during a recent visit to DC. I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Not a chance. Writer D.W. Jacobs and actor Rick Foucheux captured Bucky perfectly. It was about as close to spending an evening with him as one could hope. As the play was drawing to a close, my friend leaned over and said "How could I not have known this about him?"

A fantastic, entertaining introduction/re-introduction to Bucky. (GW)

'R. Buckminster Fuller' a brilliant show about a brilliant man

By Barbara Mackay
The Washington Examiner
June 11, 2010

In its program for "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe," Arena Stage includes a list of 43 things Fuller's son-in-law compiled to describe his father in-law. Some of them are easy to understand: A sailor, a poet, a Navy lieutenant, an anti-academician.

Some of the characterizations are less accessible: "a valuable unit," "an experimental seminarist," "a random element," "the custodian of a vital resource." But it doesn't take long for Rick Foucheux, who plays Fuller, to make those descriptions crystal clear. They are states of mind and being that Fuller believed in fully, convinced as he was that the world could function well if each person would stop thinking of him or herself as a noun and start thinking as a verb, an "integral function of universe."

The script, by D.W. Jacobs, begins as an autobiography. Fuller was born cross-eyed and it was not until he got his first pair of glasses that he saw the world as others did. In kindergarten, most of the children drew barns, rectangular shapes that they saw daily. Since Fuller did not see those shapes, he depended on his other senses and recognized that the most structurally sound shape was the triangle. The realization stuck with him throughout his life.

Clearly brilliant, Fuller was accepted to Harvard twice and kicked out twice. But it was his inclination to go against the grain and not follow conventional paths that ensured his success. As Jacobs' detailed and sympathetic script points out again and again, Fuller was a thinker well ahead of his time, a believer in solar and wind-derived electricity, an activist for the environment and for sustainability long before those words were popular.

While the first half of the show dwells on Fuller's early and personal life, the second half is packed with political and economic philosophy. Fuller saw the Wall Street banks and greed in general as having the capacity to ruin civilization, and his life was dedicated to making sure that didn't happen. There was no place in his universe for starvation or war.

It would be impossible to make such a complicated character work without the presence of a first-rate actor. Foucheux makes the heady, brilliant side of Fuller credible, breezing through the long, run-on sentences and compound words (like "omni-well-informed") Bucky created. He also delights in showing off Bucky's less serious "Amiable Lunatic" and "Affable Genie" side. Whether talking of his adored daughters or his private meeting with Einstein, Foucheux's Fuller is charming, whimsical and ebullient, full of a reverence for life.

At the center of David Lee Cuthbert's set are two large semi-circles hanging over a raised stage. Within the smaller circle, Jim Findlay's projections illustrate moments in Fuller's life, showing pictures of Fuller's family, his Dymaxion Car, the geodesic dome in the Montreal World's Fair. A chalk board, desk and props to one side of the stage allow Foucheaux to explain the structures of tetrahedrons and octahedrons and illustrate his words.

In addition to writing the script, Jacobs directed this production, giving it all necessary speed and effervescence. Thanks to Jacobs and Foucheux, Arena's "R. Buckminster Fuller" is more than a tribute to a genius who believed that it was only "the little man" who could make the world work. It's also a reminder of how apt Fuller's ideas still are. As Fuller must have done in his lectures, Foucheux persuasively suggests how easy it would be to make planet Earth fully functional by exploring how to do so much more with so much less.


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