Friday, October 19, 2012

THEATER: Time Enough At Last: A Review of the New York Neo-Futurists' "On the Future"

Thirty plays an hour. Two to twelve new plays a week. All year long. Even with a revolving ensemble, that's a daunting task for any theater company, especially a non-illusory one like the New York Neo-Futurists. So it makes sense that they'd take some time off to . . . wait, what's that? On the Future isn't a vacation, it's a terrific evening of six aggressively meditative, earnestly inquisitive, and/or ramblingly comic one-acts? (Up front confession: I had to step out of the theater for Meg Bashwiner's "The Magnificent Meg Sees All," which confronts her "psychic" great-grandmother with the question, "Do you think it's possible to be a fraud and still be a good person?" and concludes that life -- and the future -- is more about the little moments than the big ones. Sorry to have missed it.)

Here's an interesting fact. When you started reading this review, you were in the past. The sentence you're reading now takes place in the present, but before you finish it, it will have been in the future. This is the sort of logic gaming that playwrights Joey Rizzolo and Christopher Loar enjoy humorously tripping through, but the presentation between their two plays is miles apart and serves as a perfect example of the variety one finds in any given night with the New York Neo-Futurists. Rizzolo's "Tempus Umbra" uses a shadow-play format and a snappy, pattering dialogue to discuss existence and time-travel; Loar's "The Theoretical Physics of Procrastination," features three deadpan and dour (though there is a dance break) versions of Loar (two pre-recorded on the televisions rubbling the stage, all dubbed with a Robotic Hawking voice) discussing the "undeniable reality that this play has indeed already been written."

Of course, not everything always hits home. Adam Smith's "Box" gets points for establishing a creepy, crank-flashlight-powered atmosphere as he detoxes from his digital dependence in an electric-less future, but his conclusion about what really matters is perhaps a little too cute or twee -- a consequence, perhaps, of trying to distill deep thoughts into a fifteen-minute short. Likewise, there are some good jokes (and unbridled performances from the playwrights) in Daniel McCoy and Ricardo Gamboa's self-explanatorily titled "An Introduction to the Future of an Expanding Universe as Applicable to Queer Culture, Pop Culture, and Culture Club," but here's a campy theme that perhaps runs on a little too long. 

Timing issues aside, On the Future still serves as an excellent showcase of the Neo-Futurist aesthetic, and proves that while it's possible they may someday run out of ideas -- in the future, anything is possible -- they're still scratching the aesthetic surface in the present. Even a piece like Eevin Hartsough's informative "(Y)Our IMMEDIATE Survival Strategy," which has shades of a bit from a previous show of theirs --  (un)afraid -- has an entirely original (and clever) presentation, in the way it incorporates bits of fear-mongering TV clips from the past to warn us about the future. If you take Hartsough's word (and mine) for it, there are two things that are guaranteed about that future: In the future, something will happen. And if that something is you spending eighty minutes at On the Future, that'll be a good something.

No comments: