Friday, December 14, 2007

Review - Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind Best of 2007 (The New York Neo-Futurists)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Each performance of a play is, by its very nature, a unique experience. Perhaps an actor will be moved by an audience’s reaction and discover something new about his character. A prop may be missing. A line may be flubbed. Perhaps a techie has a hangover. Every little thing affects the show. However, most productions strive to make these differences to be as minor as possible.

The same cannot be said of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the long-running brainchild of Greg Allen, who created the show in Chicago and helped created the New York version. True to his ideal, the New York Neo-Futurists strive to live up to the motto, “If you’ve seen one Neo-Futurist show, you’ve seen one Neo-Futurist show.” While this is great from an audience’s standpoint, it makes for a difficult review.

TMLMTBGB is frantic. And funny. And thoughtful. It’s voice, and rhythm, and dance. It’s yoda dolls, Bichon Fris├ęs, and water balloons. It is 30 plays in 60 minutes. And for two weekends in December, it is the best of 2007.

To choose the best of 2007 must be a daunting task. The New York Neo-Futurists are prolific. In the approximately three years that they’ve been performing in New York, they’ve premiered 1122 plays. Granted, a long Neo-Futurist play is probably still under 5 minutes. But that is impressive regardless. The Neos have narrowed the year’s offerings down to 45 plays. 15 plays are the same in the two weekends of the Best of 2007. There are 15 other plays for the first weekend and a new batch of 15 for the second. 30 plays any given night. If you come to the show both weekends, you’ll still see new things.

What I find most intriguing about TMLMTBGB is that the plays aren’t simply sketch comedy. Sure, there are plenty of funny ones. But the ones that are most interesting and resonate the most with me are the introspective pieces. While there is no guarantee that these will be performed in the last two performances of the Best of 2007, keep an eye out for The Truth About Mormons, a play by Christopher Borg about growing up Mormon and gay, Before it floats away I try to remember it all, a haunting, non-verbal piece by Joe Basile, and my favorite of the evening, Erica Livingston’s This Is Not A Panic Attack, in which the other actors help the audience visualize what a panic attack feels like to her.

The audience favorites tend to be the humorous plays, especially those that incorporate music, dance, and audience participation. Among the best of these are Joey Rizzolo’s brilliant Spoiler Alert, a catchy little song that gives away the secrets of everything from ‘Citizen Kane’ to the final Harry Potter novel, Jeffrey Cranor’s … on arguing Kantian metaphysics over espresso with a Bichon Frise, that is more or less, just what it claims to be, and Salaam-E-Ishq for SRK, by Eevin Hartsough, a marvelous dance and audience participation play that gets better each time I see it.

Though there are only two more shows left in the Best of 2007, the New York Neo-Futurists will be back on January 4th with new shows. If you miss tonight’s or tomorrow’s performances, do yourself a favor and go see a show as soon as you can. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is one of the most exciting and interesting nights of theatre in New York.

[Ed. – The Neo-Futurists rarely attribute their plays to individual performers in their programs. The attributions above are based in part on the New York Neo-Futurists Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind Best of 2007 chapbook, assumptions made based on the casting, their website (, and discussions with individual members of the company.]

Created by Greg Allen
Written, Directed and Performed by The New York Neo-Futurists
Technical Director: Lauren Parrish

Featuring The New York Neo-Futurists: Jenny Williams, Justin Tolley, Joey Rizzolo, Rob Neill, Erica Livingston, Sarah Levy, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Eevin Hartsough, Ryan Good, Kevin R. Free, Jeffrey Cranor, Christopher Borg, Joe Basile.

The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street

Friday and Saturday at 10:30 PM through December 15th