BWW Reviews: FUTURITY: Musical Powered by a Steam Brain
Futurity: A Musical by The Lisps
Music by César Alvarez with The Lisps, Lyrics by César Alvarez, Book by Molly Rice and César Alvarez; Director, Sarah Benson; Choreographer, Annie-B Parson; Production Design, Emily Orling; Set/Costume Design, David Israel Reynoso; Lighting Design, Austin R. Smith; Sound Design, Matt Tierney; Music Supervisor, César Alvarez; Music Director, Debra Barsha; Mechanical Percussion Designer, Eric Farber; Associate Director, Meghan Finn; Assistant Choreographer, Chris Giarmo; Stage Manager, Katie Ailinger
CAST: César Alvarez, Sammy Tunis, Edwin Lee Gibson, Anne Gottlieb, Aaron Schroeder, Chelsey Donn, Eric Farber, Ben Simon, Lorenzo Wolff, Carl James, Michael Kane, Milia Ayache, Matthew Christian, Liza Dickinson, Teri Gamble, Rose Hogan, Lindsey Liberatore; THE LISPS: César Alvarez, Sammy Tunis, Eric Farber, Lorenzo Wolff
Performances through April 15 at Oberon, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA; Box Office 617-547-8300 or www.americanrepertorytheater.org
Futurity: A Musical by The Lisps began as a concept album about an imaginative Civil War soldier who dreams of building a machine that creates peace and evolved into a staged musical that combines history, science fiction, technology, and imagination. Upon entering Oberon for the world premiere of Futurity, leave your presumptions about musical theater at the door. Born of the art world and the indie rock scene, the show is part performance art, part rock concert, and totally defies conventional labels.
Founding member of The Lisps César Alvarez wrote the music (with The Lisps) and lyrics and co-wrote the book with Molly Rice. The fictional soldier Julian Munro, played by Alvarez carrying a guitar in lieu of a rifle, is seemingly in the wrong line of work. A pacifist at heart, he spends his time writing in his diary, diagramming his ideas for an Artificial Intelligence machine. Realizing that he does not have the resources to engineer such a device, he writes for guidance from Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the British poet Lord Byron and a mathematical genius in her own right. Once she becomes excited by Julian’s concept of the “Steam Brain,” they join forces to design and build the machine that will change the world by ending human strife.
Meanwhile, the war continues. Julian and the other untested young men in his company perform their drills and find ways to nervously pass the time while waiting to engage with the enemy. The General (a fatherly Edwin Lee Gibson) pontificates on the nobility of war as he ogles a shipment of repeating rifles, the latest technological advance in warfare. On her home front, Ada (Sammy Tunis) is challenged by her mother (Anne Gottlieb) when Lady Byron discovers the equations and formulas she’s working on for the steam brain instead of carrying out more conformist research. Thousands of miles apart from each other, Julian and Ada face their naysayers and struggle to stay true to the pursuit of their innovative dream.