"Set Yet in Motion," written by Teachers College, Columbia University student and playwright, Alaina Hammond had its closing night on March 4, 2016, at the Under St. Marks Theater on the East Side as part of the Winter Frigid Festival. The show began at 8:50 and ran for 45 minutes to a packed house.
The premise of the play is simple: God Apollo (James Rieser) is relentlessly pursuing Goddess Cassandra. Cassandra (Malka Wallick) has spurned his advances so often, and without relief, that she no longer knows how to keep Apollo away. In an effort to gain advice, she visits Tiresias (Ken Coughlin) who suggests that she go seek counsel from the Judeo-Christian God (Katherine Wessling). After God and Cassandra meet, God proceeds to enlist Immanuel Kant (Vincent Bivona) and Johannes Climacus (Christian Michael Ramirez) in an effort to murder Apollo. Although Johannes is the one who really wants to murder Apollo, God insists that Kant must commit the act because he understands the weight of murder, understands that one cannot act on urges blindly but rather must use reason and judgment to decide whether those urges should be followed. God says that she wants Kant to “know exactly why something needs to be done.” On his journey to kill Apollo, Kant meets Nietzche in female form (originally played by London Griffith, but this night played by Hammond).
Hammond’s writing makes clear that she is a student of philosophy. Furthermore, her choice to explore the idea of Nietzsche in the female form proves her fearless nature in dealing with issues of gender and gender politics. The sexual chemistry between Kant and Nietzsche and Nietzsche’s point that Kant only noticed his existence when he was “in a female form” alludes to the fact that most often males are respected for their intelligence whereas women are often only seen as objects of lust. This idea of objectification is further proved when Nietzsche urges Kant not to murder Apollo and Kant mentions that the way he is dressed is “distracting.” Additionally, Hammond expresses her fearlessness of gender again when she chooses to make God female. Most, if not all, representations of the Judeo-Christian God are male, and Hammond’s intentional choice to cast a female actor makes a statement about the powerful nature of women. Casting females for Nietzsche and God, Hammond, in no uncertain terms, lets audiences know that women possess an unseen power that often works behind the scenes as the backbone to everything else that happens around them.
Memorable performances include Bivona as Kant and Wessling as God, and Coughlin as Tiresias. Coughlin has the audience laughing from the first scene. He manages to play the snarky advisor well and his delivery has just the right amount of male arrogance and fatherly know-how. This tone appears most when Tiresias is gently urging Cassandra to dress in ways more flattering to her male counterparts. Wessling made a remarkable God, her smugness and sureness of her omnipotent wisdom showing at every scene. Bivona captured Kant’s tortured soul perfectly. The push and pull of having to decide between taking the necessary actions versus taking the right actions are evident.
Overall, Hammond’s writing is smart, funny, and just the right amount of raunchy—perfect for any philosophy student or just any audience member who appreciates intelligent humor. Set Yet in Motion definitely set intelligent discourse regarding the nature of Greek mythology and philosophical history in motion in the minds of audience members.