Created by David Commander and Rob Ramirez; Written and Directed by David Commander
Produced by Immediate Medium
Off Off Broadway, Multimedia Puppet Show
Runs through 4.1.17
The Collapsable Hole, 55 Bethune Street
by Ran Xia on 3.25.17
Lisa Clair, Rob Ramirez, and David Commander in Steve Of Tomorrow. Photo by Maria Baranova.
BOTTOM LINE: A futuristic puppet satire, set in the advent of an oncoming storm.
With Steve of Tomorrow, David Commander and Rob Ramirez create a world that is a haunting reflection of the one we live in. Self-obsessed humans (puppets) with LED screen heads have cellphones practically glued to their hands, while news anchors and entertainers on TV are plastic dolls and action figures. David Commander and Lisa Clair respectively provide faces for Scott Cion and Ralph Bearer, a pair of suburban residents. Scott has some anger management issues as he deals with endless technology problems, and Ralph the sci-fi blogger is addicted to internet porn, his computer infested with pop-up commercials and comment section trolls like new-age pests. Ralph posts about welcoming a time traveller to sleep on their couch, and Steve (Rob Ramirez) from the future drops in, thus setting the household drama in motion.
Meanwhile, taking all the primetime news slots is Ross International, a fictitious tech superpower developing the first artificial hurricane. However, nobody seems to fear the oncoming storm, but rather, everyone welcomes it with a sense of intrigue and fascination, as the Barbie & Ken dolls on TV pump up their viewers with plastic smiles, to grab a front row seat to experience the "celebrity hurricane." The show eventually ties the two parallel storylines together when Scott and Ralph become personally affected by the hurricane, as the storm breaks the barrier between the two separate sections of the performance space.
The creative team really goes all out in this delightfully raunchy satire: beyond the main story arc, they salt and pepper the piece with commentary on reality TV wannabes and the pretensions of high fashion. The play is saturated with sound and fury—the sound of mind-boggling distraction from corporate-run media, and the fury of a people enslaved by technology, while deprived of the capacity to form meaningful connection. The conflict between Ralph and Scott hits home when, after a vicious fight carried out in a Facebook comment thread, Scott steps away as if nothing had happened. "You called me a loser," says Ralph, to which Scott responds, "It’s not real"—it’s just on the Internet.
Steve of Tomorrow was first conceived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which gives its "Hurricane Deluxe" a terrifyingly tangible context. However, with naysayers on climate change in political office, the satirical multimedia puppet show remains relevant. Additionally, the performers’ static expressions, flashing on screens, serve as a perfect metaphor for the lack of human connection in an overly digitized era.
If you happened to catch the Deconstructive Theatre Project’s Orpheus Variations or the Tank’s Ada|Ava, Steve of Tomorrow is the same category in that it also features a great deal of live SFX action. The audiences are let in on the process of piecing together all the elements of the storytelling, and are made aware of the mechanics involved in the making of the piece. The piece needs some recalibration in order to tell the story with more clarity, thus striking a more powerful punch. Still, it’s a daring experiment with both heart and wit, which one would thoroughly enjoy if they're willing to fully embrace the creators’ sincerity in making a cornucopia of bold choices.
(Steve of Tomorrow plays at the Collapsable Hole, 55 Bethune Street, through April 1, 2017. The running time is 50 minutes without an intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, and Saturday 3/25 at 3. Tickets are $40 and are available at thehole.site.)
Steve Of Tomorrow is created by David Commander and Rob Ramirez. Written and directed by David Commander. Additional computer animation is by Jangle Miau. Additional voice and video performance is by Cary Curran, Jedidiah Clarke, and Hanlon Smith-Dorsey. Set design is by David Commander. Lighting design is by Takaaki Ando.
The cast is Lisa Clair, David Commander, and Rob Ramirez.