Friday, March 06, 2009


Rooftops is a green production; that's great for the environment, but not so good for you. As Pixie (Randi Berry), the large, dumb "queen" of the Tops would put it, the show is "poluzzin de air wid [its] pooty mouz." The play, at times, is so hysterically awful that one's attention shifts to the volunteer cyclist who, way off stage left, is pedaling a exercise bike that powers the theater's lights. (Unfortunately, it's stationary: it can't get a flat or be derailed--the show plods on.)

On paper, Karly Maurer's Rooftops sounds decent--in the not-so-distant future, rooftop work camps have been established for society's debtors. The television spreads lies about domestic terrorism, military service extends for more than eleven tours, and drugged chicken keeps the masses in check. However, being a green production and all, there is no paper (even Michael McClain's shantytown set is made from found material). In other words, nothing holds Kimberlea Kressal's direction in check, and for over two hours, things get increasingly absurd. It's like watching a poor man's The Handmaid's Tale as acted by the cast of Simple Jack.

For those masochists who need specifics, the play begins when a hooded and screaming Emily (Mika Porro) is deposited in her new home, Top 24B. After Pixie's menacing exposition, we meet Nisey (Lauren Turner Kiel), who is sixteen going on four, and Mangle (Anna Lamadrid), a heavily medicated musician that Emily recognizes from her old job. The Man Upstairs, Mr. Fleet (Benjamin Spradley), turns out to be just as crazy as the rest of them (the purple robe and golden boxers are a giveaway): he's a debtor, too, forced to finish "insertion orders," which is basically the impregnating rape of his "accounts." Even the enforcer, Jackett (Dechelle Damien), is insane--Astrid, who sounds like a Hispanic man, and Penny, a vapid young girl, are her other personalities. Worse, because the madness is so unfocused (Kressal's direction meanders for long stretches of scene-chewing), it makes the story less and less concievable: Why run a work camp in such an inefficient way? Perhaps because that makes it easier for Jibril (Al Miro) to sneak in and save the day--even though his face is plastered all over the news: Terrorist.

We're meant to be disturbed and disgusted by Rooftops' dystopic vision: watch Emily be turned into a mindless baby-making zombie, see the lewd Mr. Fleet have his way with the women, watch Jackett torture the slightest infractions, see the prisoners rip into chicken like starved animals. But these characters are all victims of QB (Meret Oppenheim)--her cold logic and commercially justified evil is what's missing from the play, but it's not enough to just throw her into the play's coda. Instead, we're left to be disturbed and disgusted by the actual performance. Now you know why rooftops are so abandoned.

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