Sunday, August 19, 2007

PLAY: "the7 battles thebest"

The Best is back with a new episode of their underground theater-rock show about a group of pop-icon rebels against an oppressive government, and this time it's bigger, better, and more epic than ever before. At the same time, it's still suffering from some cryptic jokes and, because of the sound system, many indecipherable lyrics. Truth be told, there isn't that much you need to understand: our heroes do battle, through song. Eamonn Farrell's script is clever, which is a plus, but if you don't get that hype is what powers the insurgency's online bandwidth, or that OEDI, their increasingly crazy on-board computer is adapted from Oedipus, you can still enjoy the jams produced by Jim Iseman III and his band and the choreography by Andrea Davey. You might not understand every word that comes out of Hilda's (Jessica Weinstein) mouth, but the old-school late night MTV vibe of characters like Captain Anus and Part-He-No-Penis isn't all that hard to grasp (and in truth, is almost funnier in snippets).

For those paying attention, The Best has added a new, extra-campy video introduction, and Jim Iseman's music diverges enough from force rock to showcase some slower numbers and the vocal talents of the group. "Do or Die" is straight rock, but "Paper Airplane" is a ballad sung by Melissa (Liz Davito) as she swings from a piece of black fabric, and MSS's (Matt Schuneman) "Let's Dance" is an acoustic suicide letter. And hell, you have to admire the balls of a rock band that will do a light instrumental number, "7/8ths," that is mostly just a showcase for modern dance. But "The 7 Is Coming," a funky flow of rap and rock, is the best example for the unique way in which The Best turns exposition into drama. This abundance--choreography, videography, and rock--can sometimes get a little carried away, but for the most part, Farrell's direction is just absorbingly frenetic.

My one warning is that The 7 Battles The Best is almost two hours long, and ends with a cliffhanger. It's by far the most ambitious show of theirs, with a large cast, a big band, and a slew of video cameos, and all of these upgrades keep the show feeling innovative, even though the basic format (story, song, story, song) hasn't changed all that much episode to episode. Still, seeing The Best is always a bit of an unexpected treat, so go get your freak on.

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