Saturday, February 03, 2007

PLAY: "Apocalypse Neo"

Including, but not restricted to, scenes from a musical adaptation of Apocalypse Now, the Neo-Futurists' "prime-time production" of Apocalypse Neo uses the possibly impending apocalypse as an excuse to showcase three plays on the end of the world as we know it. Of those three plays, "In which the end of the world..." is a solid hit, using the pretense of a live debate to give way to a comic poignancy as two teams of three set up delightful presentations for their case. "Monkeyland II (anatk 21.10)" is a little too disconnected for anything other than the overarching theme to come across. We get the epic parody of our need to place our faith in things (expressed via a toy monkey tirelessly clapping its cymbals across the "wasteland" of a stage), but it's an unflinching, unassertive thirty minutes of theater. "Revelations of a City of Us" is the least substantial of them all--a series of pop-culture musings that try to support their flimsy premise by pulling people up from the audience--but it succeeds only in terms of stagecraft.

There are many interesting elements of theater presented in the whole of Apocalypse Neo, from a choreographed dance to Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" to a series of exhibits worthy of a fourth-grade science fair that will make you think 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in their simplistically devious humor. There are also some surprisingly emotional performances, as with Erica Livingston, who shares her tax report with us even as she passes around a sympathy card to be filled out for a friend of hers and then tells us that we have to act now, as there may not be much time left.

Given that the Neo-Futurist movement is supposed to deny nothing, and that "In which the end of the world..." was a collaborative effort between Justin Tolley and his cast, there's no telling how much was real of the evening, and how much was just clever writing, but I've got no desire to break the illusion. I only wish that so much of Apocalypse Neo itself didn't go about forcefully reminding us of the long-gone fourth wall: it doesn't do enough with the audience to deserve losing that barrier.

[First posted to New Theater Corps, 2/3]

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