Friday, March 23, 2007

PLAY: "OEDIrx"

OEDIrx is a rock concert, an online version of American Idol (performed live), and a trippy multimedia show all rolled into one. It's also a more-or-less faithful adaptation of Oedipus Rex, only instead of a pestilence ruling the land, it's the government's team of dedicated hackers, erasing members of the clandestine and rebellious group, The Best, and instead of a wise and prediction-fearing king, there is their Organically Enhanced Digital Inference, OEDI ("Eddy"). Eamonn Farrell is an insane man to think up such an eccentric adaptation, one that fuses punk rock with burlesque dancing (not too far a stretch) and stilt-walking emcees with online nerds. The show is enthusiastic and energetic with all that crazy power, and the combination of digitally enhanced projections of the show along with the real dancing, singing, and acting is proof that insanity is such a relative word.

Farrell also steps on board for the direction, and this is where OEDIrx gets hard to judge. Andrea Davey has carefully choreographed the production, but the hectic combination of film and movement, and the use of superimposed characters over live feeds (the way in which characters speak with OEDI, say) seems more random than planned. However, this chaos is in tune with the dystopia of the near-future the production takes place in, and there's something to be said for allowing a show's unique momentum to make the visuals anew each night. The only problem I have is that the timelapsed footage runs out of synch with the audio, and for the big rock numbers (each of the four characters has one, plus a group number and a surprise solo), it's occasionally hard to make out the vocals over the slamming sound. But just as the plot rises from the chaos of the insiderish first fifteen minutes, the emotional themes and performances bolster the coherence to the text.

The plot revolves around the secret society of The Best, an online network whose mission, summed up in five words or less, is to "make music, fight government, superlatively." To protect the security of its members, recruits are given the opportunity to move up through the ranks from the lowest level, Gate 1, to the highest, Gate 7. Those at the top filter live performance feeds down through their profiles in order to increase their own Icon status, but also to accumulate Hype for the network. As rebellion often goes, these performances are punk songs (written by Jim Iseman III and Masi Asare), the style of which changes to suit the four leads: Anne (Janelle M. Lannan), the technochic with the full-body voice; Amy (Mikey McCue), the sultry diva of the group; Melissa (Liz Davito), the polite powerhouse; and Ethan (Eirik Gislason), the sensitive shouter.

If punk isn't exactly to your liking, and the idea of seeing visually creative (but digital) images doesn't impress you, there's also a solid background of character development created by the joint investigation of these characters by Hilda (Jessica Weinstein) and OEDI (Nick Jaeger), one who is a boisterous, Indian-sounding, mustached lurker, and the other of whom is a sardonic computer program that likes to engage in facial puppetry.

The combination of all these elements makes OEDIrx one of the most curious things you can see on the New York circuit: a bold, boundary pushing work that is as joyously far from Broadway as it gets (while still being theater). Don't let the chaos fool you: this is professional theater, and I hope to see Anonymous Ensemble top The Oedi Cycle with whatever they take on next.

[First posted to New Theater Corps, 3/22]

1 comment:

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