Ethan Rains, from left, Deborah Puette, Johnathan McClain and Adam Silver… (Ed Krieger )
Oliver Sacks turns brain anomalies into suspense thrillers, with synaptic gaps as cliffhangers. Now Kathryn Walat, perhaps inspired by the good doctor’s “Musicophilia,” follows similar neural pathways to explore the deepest changes of heart. “Creation,” her world premiere drama at the Theatre at Boston Court, plays as an elegant if subdued case study in chemical romance.
On holiday celebrating his 40th birthday, evolutionary biologist Ian (Johnathan McClain) is struck by lightning but miraculously revived by his pathologist wife, Sarah (Deborah Puette). As Ian recovers, he develops an all-consuming obsession with music -- and tortured gay composer Zach (the droll Adam Silver). Sarah turns to cocky neurologist Amal (Ethan Rains, charming) for answers, only to find herself even more unsettled by their intense mutual attraction.
Played out on Francois-Pierre Couture’s chilly pastel set (think Ingmar Bergman meets Ikea), “Creation” unfolds as a kind of lab experiment in which four prickly smart types discover that the gut knows more than frontal lobe. At one point, Amal tells Sarah about his father’s candy store, where he sneaked dates “that I’d keep in my mouth. Suck on it until all the fruit was off of it. And then relax my tongue around it — make a little home for the pit. …” Beat. Sarah: “Show me. How you -- do that.”
Director Michael Michetti finds a fluid choreography for this roundelay, enhanced by Bruno Louchouarn’s original music and sound design and Andrew J. Hungerford’s restless lighting. Walat’s script is always — and sometimes too — thoughtful: She can tell when we most want her to show, and Ian and Sarah’s marriage doesn’t feel as vivid as it might.
Still, “Creation” details the birth pangs of new art, new love, new selves. In its best moments, the play pushes beyond its cerebral premise toward something urgent and fully human.
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“Creation” Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Added performance 8 p.m. Nov. 7. Ends Nov. 11. $29-$34. (626) 683-6883 or www.bostoncourt.com Running time: 2 hours.