Strange Interlude: The Neo-Futurists (03/06/2009)
What is a reviewer to think as she is sitting and watching a production: austere set, minimal furniture, iconic ghost image of a handsome soldier in a size usually used to honor Mao, selected text excerpts in bright blue type sans serif typeface and what is the significance of the serif is it phallic?—the viewer, sitting and waiting and watching the production?
Oh so outré, so unconventional, so smashing of convention, oh yes, so smashingly surreal and unconventional and aren't we clever that we “get it” ha ha ha oh yes insert droll laughter here, as the considerably older and more affluent than your typical NeoFuturist audience, watch, with commendable endurance, a nine act, five hour Pulitzer-Prize winning drama. The reviewer, thirty-nine, kindly described as zaftig, of indeterminate blended innocuous Central and Northern-European extraction, experiencing the assorted deleterious effects of gravity and disappointment and an excess of bittersweet chocolate, attends with a companion, who later opines: "When he was molesting the Cabbage Patch doll, I had tears running down my face."
To see a NeoFuturist production is to expect the unexpected. This experimental theater group has been active in Chicago since 1988, staging new plays in addition to its consistent feature "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," a performance of thirty plays in sixty minutes. Their aesthetic and philosophy include elements of Futurist action, Dadaist invocation of chance, reflexive surreality, and aspirations to timeliness and social relevance.
Strange Interlude tells the story of Nina Leeds, a woman whose three lovers define her life with an intricate and twisted web that entangles her as she spins it. This particular production included the best symbolic rendering of an abortion I have ever seen on stage: Nina ends a pregnancy when her mother-in-law removes a helium-inflated red balloon from beneath her powder-blue cardigan, holds its mouth open so that the leaking gas squeaks pitiably, and then releases the balloon so that it jets to land on stage right in a tragicomic trajectory. While funny, it also effectively communicates the nature of the procedure: not evil, but sad. The script includes an astute monologue by the heroine in which she explains why it should be "God the Mother." It is consistent with the entire Neo experience that as the first intermission began, someone shouted from the balcony, "Why are you doing this to this play? This is not O'Neill! This is a travesty!" Myself and another friend had the automatic assumption that the impassioned cry came from a planted company member. The world should contain more such travesties.
Photo courtesy of Eric Y. Exit