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  • Phoebe Robertson

Review: The Forever Wave, a radio play

A case study on what dystopian fiction can be.

Picture credit: Estrella Suerte Productions

Words by: Phoebe Robertson (she/her)

Inspired by Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, The Forever Wave takes on a new version of his radio play, set in a near-future world ravaged by climate change. In this re-imagined story, rising sea levels now submerge the Bay Area and survivors must adapt to living on isolated islands in a constantly changing tide. It's a powerful depiction of a world forever altered.

The narrative follows various characters as they navigate their lives on what was once a bustling peninsula turned into scattered islands. The narrator poses an intriguing question at the beginning: "If you survive the apocalypse, don't you get to help build what comes after it?" While many dystopian tales suggest that the aftermath is worse than the initial disaster, The Forever Wave challenges this trope by showing that humanity and hope still exist in this apocalyptic world.

One standout feature of this play is its use of music. Though not technically a musical, the songs incorporated add depth and emotion to the production. Sound designer Cliff Caruthers and Director/Playwright Nicole Gluckstern deserve credit for creating a seamless auditory experience, with only minor distractions such as occasional tinny vocals (which were few and far between). 

The dystopian setting of "The Forever Wave" is rich with echoes of decolonization and queer exploration, adding layers of depth to the narrative. The clever use of a blind character mirrors the blindness of the audience listening to the online play, making it a brilliant literary choice that could have been further explored for impact.

At its core, this play is a powerful testament to the enduring power of storytelling. It effortlessly navigates the bleak landscape of dystopia while staying rooted in the human experience, which makes it relatable and compelling. However, some references to real-life events like Hurricane Katrina and the COVID-19 pandemic feel out of place in the distant future setting, creating a slight disconnect.

Despite its grim setting, "The Forever Wave" radiates a sense of hope. Themes of collaboration and respect for nature are woven throughout the narrative, offering a refreshing take on the dystopian genre. The intertwining dreams of characters and poignant moments of birth and poetry culminate in an uplifting finale that leaves audiences feeling optimistic - a rarity in dystopian fiction.

Through its exploration of humanity's relationship with the land, this play avoids adversarial tropes and instead promotes a collaborative ethos. It serves as a poignant reminder that even in the face of environmental disaster, there is still room for resilience and renewal. As the narrator bids goodnight to all, echoing the sentiment of closure and new beginnings, "The Forever Wave" leaves a lasting impression on its audience - a glimpse of light in an uncertain future.

Filled with themes of hope, cooperation, and strength in the face of a bleak future, "The Forever Wave" is a triumph of storytelling. Its message is powerful and its narrative is gripping, making it a shining example of how to subvert common tropes surrounding climate change and offer a refreshing perspective. The play ends on a resounding note: the inhabitants of this world will persevere, no matter what challenges they may face.


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