Adam Scott, Meg Bashwiner, Daniel McCoy, and Christopher Loar in ON THE FUTURE. Photo by Anton Nickel.
BOTTOM LINE: This spirited, unusual collection of short plays offers up humorous and philosophical ruminations on the future, science, and the concept of time.
Considering the fact that we are reaching the end of 2012, the year when some believe the world will end as it was the final year of the Mayan calendar, it seems a fitting time for The Neo-Futurists to debut their new showcase of futuristic and apocalypse themed one-act plays, On The Future. The plays included within this collection explore such sobering themes as surviving post-apocalypse, the beginning of the universe, the existence of God, time travel, the destruction of the Earth, and how the expanding universe will eventually destroy itself. Considering these hard hitting, sometimes philosophical, sometimes depressing topics, the writing is not always as humorous as previous material produced by the Neo-Futurists, but it is consistently attention grabbing and innovative, challenging the standard format of live theater.
The show’s first play, "(Y)Our Immediate Survial Strategy" by Eevin Hartsough, is an exploration of life during an era with a prevalent anxiety towards imminent crisis and disaster. The performers humorously discuss disaster preparedness and ask for the audience to donate rations to their emergency fund (which culminates in a few boxes of Tic-Tacs and some already opened bottles of water). The skit is threaded with sound bites from 1950s-era Cold War paranoia, in which students were taught to duck and cover, a strategy, the performers note, that did little else than cause anxiety in children.
The following play “Box,” both written and performed by Adam Smith, is attentio- getting simply because during its entirety the theater is entirely pitch black, with only occasional flashes of Smith’s flashlight. During the time spent in total darkness, Smith narrates the thought process one has during a prolonged power outage and the possibility of imminent catastrophe.
Enigmatic performer Meg Bashwiner makes fun of the idea of psychic abilities in her work "The Magnificent Meg Sees All," by giving an audience member a parody of a psychic reading, during the course of which she cooks meatballs on a hot plate, serves them, and speaks of her Italian grandmother who allegedly also had psychic capabilities. (Something Bashwiner later discounts as fraudulent.) Meg plays upon laughable “psychic” observations, stating, “Before you came here tonight you were somewhere else,” and pointing out audience members that probably “like tacos.” Her piece is the most linear, and the most straightforward of the evening; the other works sometimes tend towards nebulous observations and scientific statements rather than storylines.
The show’s standout piece, by far, is “An Introduction to the Future of an Expanding Universe, as Applicable to Queer Culture, Pop Culture, and Culture Club.” In the play, performers and writers Dan McCoy and Ricardo Gamboa attempt to explain the universe’s path to self destruction, while undercutting their explanation with quips about the history of gay rights and queer-oriented references to pop culture. During the course of their presentation McCoy and Gamboa slowly transform themselves into over the top drag queens. The duo breaks down various aspects of the universe as we know it, declaring each to be “gay.” McCoy makes such wry commentary as “I’d give that nebula a blow job.” If only college astronomy classes were this laugh-inducing and engrossing.
The night’s works end with “The Theoretical Physics of Procrastination,” which amounts to an unusual rumination on the passage of time. Performer and writer Christopher Loar plays video of himself back in July trying to work on the play while he narrates the actions of his future self, here in October of 2012, and eventually merges the past and present self.
Overall, On the Future might not provide the over-the-top laughs audience members might be expecting from the Neos, but it is attention-grabbing and engaging nonetheless. While the subjects, plots, and stagings of many shows currently being performed may seem strikingly similar to one another, On the Future is one of a kind, providing a dose of fresh air to theater goers, proving that downtown theater can topically push the envelope.
(On the Future plays at the Red Room Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through October 20, 2012. Performances are Mondays at 8PM, and Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM. There is an additional performance on Wednesday, October 17th at 8PM. Tickets are $14-$18 and are available at nynf.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111.)