These messages — some to her husband, from whom she is separated — seem to be a slight misstep; in a play that in any other case avoids exposition like a foul odor (we in any other case know solely what the ladies inform each other) they’re too on the nostril. Nonetheless, they serve a objective, apart from being harrowing, in that they propel the play into its remaining third, during which the dialogue of need offers approach to a possibility to enact it. However if you happen to assume you see the place that’s going, you can be each proper and flawed; Baker’s constructions are so robust and but open that, inside them, something or its reverse could occur at any second.
Sustaining that pressure between plot and anti-plot, whereas utilizing it to deepen our engagement in a narrative that appears random however isn’t, requires essentially the most beautiful directorial care. “Infinite Life” (a co-production with Britain’s Nationwide Theater) will get that and extra from James Macdonald, who has notably staged performs by Baker in London and by the British playwright Caryl Churchill right here in New York. Certainly, “Infinite Life” most carefully jogged my memory of Churchill’s nice “Escaped Alone,” during which 4 ladies sit in a backyard chatting into the apocalypse.
However Macdonald understands that Baker’s practice isn’t the identical as Churchill’s. The ladies right here (if not the person) are totally, nearly floridly conceived, not simply parts slotted into a proper conceit. Baker’s is a wealthy minimalism, as if the characters in a Tennessee Williams melodrama discovered themselves in an Albee one-act. Regardless of the problem of realizing that, the forged of six New York regulars is superb: pretty much as good as I’ve ever seen any of them, and within the case of Nielsen, so splendidly restrained, even higher. For all of the detailed habits that exhibits up on the floor — the varied methods the ladies sip from their water bottles, the shuffling or striding or creeping to their chaises — you all the time sense the larger weight of no matter lies beneath.
That the characters additionally dwell in a world of concepts offers the play its mental heft and sophisticated texture, each mild and profound. The distinction is superbly maintained by the bodily manufacturing, during which even the breeze-block wall framing the patio, by the design studio dots, is on level: a tracery of concrete and air. The ladies’s stretchy sweats, batik pajamas and light-weight cover-ups, by Ásta Bennie Hostetter, signify consolation but additionally the necessity for it. Birdsong and street noise are the poles of Bray Poor’s bifurcated sound world. And in Isabella Byrd’s lighting design, the minute we get used to the practically invisible evening, with only a cellphone to see by, we’re snapped into the cruel Might solar of the next noon.
They’re all expressions of Baker’s refusal to cut back the world to a unitary lesson; “Infinite Life” gives ethical philosophy however no ethical. (If ache “means something in any respect,” Sofi says, “then I don’t know if I can bear it.”) Sickness, in spite of everything, is not any metaphor. It has no objective, is not any judgment, can’t be achieved proper or flawed; it’s only itself, incomparable (although among the characters compete over whose wretchedness is worse) and uninterpretable.
Which doesn’t imply it’s ineffective to consider. (When first announced for 2021, the play was referred to as “On the Makes use of of Ache for Life.”) Understanding struggling, like understanding need, could assist us after we face it, or when others do, and optimistically afterward. Which, by the way in which, is what “Daniel Deronda,” previous web page 152, is about — and “Infinite Life” is all the time.
Via Oct. 8 on the Linda Gross Theater, Manhattan; atlantictheater.org. Operating time: 1 hour 45 minutes.