Q&A with Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner

Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin’s genius on the page and the stage, respectively, is nowhere more apparent than in their hugely popular 1985 play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which was later given an enduring form in this 1991 film adaptation. Tomlin embodies a dozen characters in all their glorious idiosyncrasies, including Trudy, a bag lady tuned into humanity’s collective consciousness and acting as a liaison to alien observers; Agnus Angst, a punk teenage runaway and aspiring performance artist; and a trio of women who have taken rather different paths since their heady days in the feminist movement. Partly an illuminating time capsule, reflecting on the social and political fallout from the tumultuous two decades that preceded it, the work also resonates throughout as a far grander narrative, a tale of the elaborate interconnectedness that holds together our peculiar, captivating species.