Sunday, February 4, 2007

Review - Apocalypse Neo (NY Neo Futurists and Horse Trade Theatre)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Those people who’ve only experienced the NY Neo-Futurists through Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB), their late night show featuring thirty plays in sixty minutes, may legitimately wonder if the they can pull off a mainstage production featuring three longer plays and still maintain the same wild energy, innovative spirit, and anarchistic vibe. Good news . . . they can, and remarkably well, at that.

Apocalypse Neo, presented by the NY Neo-Futurists and Horse Trade Theatre and currently playing at the Kraine Theater, is a three-play Neo-Futurist look at the end of the world. It has everything that a TMLMTBGB audience has come to expect: actors playing themselves; confessions; revelations; music; rhythm; audience participation; props; humor; sympathy; pizza; time limits; and the occasional naughty bit. All this in a longer format that allows the audience to completely immerse itself in the plays, something that is harder to do in TMLMTBGB.

The first play, Crystal Skillman’s Revelations of a City of Us, imagines Clay Adams as the last man on Earth. Or rather, it imagines Clay imagining he’s the last man on Earth. The apocalypse hasn’t happened, but Clay is going to give it a dry run to make sure he’s prepared. Joined by the last women on Earth, Tara Perry, Lauren Kincheloe, Sharon Freedman, and Jenny Williams, Clay muses on the nature of the end of the world, survival, Neo-Futurism, pizza and zombies. Along the way the survivors discover that the end of the world may not be too different from the way it is now.

Justin Tolley’s play, In which the end of the world . . . , is the second of the evening, and the one most recognizable as the offspring of TMLMTBGB. It is set up as a debate between two teams: one arguing that the apocalypse will happen during our lifetime; the other arguing that it won’t. Each team gets to make an opening argument, rebuttal, cross-examination, and final concluding rebuttal. Each argument and rebuttal is, in and of itself, a separate play, chosen by the team from several possible plays prepared by the actors in the show. Like TMLMTBGB, no two audiences will see the exactly the same lineup. The evening I saw the show, it featured two particularly good pieces: Popcorn, a video montage showing the horrible things, real and imagined, that are ushering in the apocalypse; and There’s So Much To Do, a piece that is one of the most life-affirming things I’ve seen in a long time. At the end of all the arguments, moderator Rob Neill makes the audience choose which team wins, and in effect, whether we win or not.

The final play, Rob Neill’s Monkeyland II (anatk 21.10), is my favorite one in Apocalypse Neo, and unfortunately, the hardest to describe. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; the play has a mythic, avant garde quality that people who prefer representational theatre may not appreciate. However, if you can approach the play with an open and accepting mind, and believe that a windup toy monkey can be a post-apocalyptic wandering hero, it is pretty amazing.

Apocalypse Neo has an extremely limited run - six performances ending Saturday, February 10th. Do yourself a favor; go to one of them before the show closes. And if you attend Friday or Saturday’s show, do yourself another favor; stick around and see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. You’ll be glad you did.

Revelations of a City of Us
Written by Crystal Skillman
Directed by Chris Dippel
Performed by Tara Perry, Lauren Kincheloe, Sharon Freedman, Jenny Williams, Clay Adams

In which the end of the world . . .
Created by Justin Tolley
Written and performed by Erica Livingston, Lindsay Brandon Hunter, Emma Gordon, Michael Davis, Jarrod Zayas, Justin Tolley, Rob Neill
Directed by Mark Armstrong

Monkeyland II (anatk 21.10)
Written by Rob Neill
Directed by Jacquelyn Landgraf
Performed by Eevin Hartsough, Ryan Good, Jorge Cordova, Leslie Korein

The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through February 10th