I recently saw Lucy Kirkwood’s new play Mosquitoes at the National Theater in London. During the course of the play, a scientist at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (a massive particle accelerator devoted to probing the origins of the universe) debates the nature of science and the universe with her anti-intellectual sister.

Kirkwood juxtaposes the imagined orderliness of the universe with the everyday disorder of human behavior. By approaching the topic through personal drama, Kirkwood avoids the conceptual tangle inevitable in comparing humanity to the vast system we call “the universe”. By the end of the play, it becomes clear that the universe is hardly as orderly, and human behavior is hardly as chaotic, as we might like to think. It turns out that in the randomness of human behavior, there may be some simple certainties that repeat themselves in every life in every era.

The benefit of this performance—elegantly staged and wonderfully acted—is that two age-old ideas are put in play in a new way. The hugeness of our universe is shrunk to a scale at which it is tantalizingly comprehensible and the unpredictability of humanity takes on a surprising order.

I came out of the play thinking we should all look more for the unexpected than the expected.

I hope it is something we can all achieve in today’s uncertain world.


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