BWW Reviews: +30NYC: Dystopia, Ltd.
The Red Fern Theatre Company has been dedicated to social change with all their productions, partnering with service organizations with each play they produce. For their 2009-2010 season, which is dedicated to new work, they comissioned seven playwrights to create new short plays imagining how New York City might evolve within 30 years from now, and partnered with Materials for the Arts to use an entirely recycled set. The evening is called +30 NYC: new plays examining the next New York. The plays each examine a different aspect of what the future might be like, generally with emphasis on the dramatically dystopian, but with wit and humor that keeps the evening from being too preachy or a downer.
The first play, Footprint, by Mac Rogers, directed by Daniel Talbott, is an interesting piece about a man (Haskell King) who pays lip service to the idea of sustainable housing to impress his semi-estranged wife (Stephanie Janssen), going so far as hiring Moran (Gayton Scott), a leader in sustainable architecture, to build a custom house for them and place it in Brooklyn. Scott is especially amusing as the contractor whose schemes are not always fully where she would like them to be.
Second is Thirty Story Masterpieces by Tommy Smith, directed by Jessi D. Hill. A lovely two-hander about the Haves and Have-Nots, in which a young man (Brian Robert Burns) visits a college chum of his mother's (Corinna May), who married into money and now lives in an opulent penthouse above the chaos the rest of the world is suffering. Both performers do excellent work.
Next was Remembrancer Vessel by Ashlin Halfnight, directed by Melanie Moyer Williams. This was the comic highlight of the evening, a farcical look at cryogenic freezing. A woman (Kathryn Kates) brings her unwitting daughter (Jessica Cummings) to the defrosting of her grandfather's head, with the help of an enthusiastic technician (Jordan Kaplan). The piece is especially well-served by Kates' exquisite comic timing.
After intermission was in the Zone, by Michael John Garcés, directed by Portia Kreiger. This was the most cyberpunk of the pieces, with amo (Richard Gallagher) and xiu (Nalini Sharma) in a bidding war for a piece of "leaf", a forbidden old-fashioned paper book. jamf (Maria-Christina Oliveras) is the off-the-grid black market seller, who seems to know more about what's going on in the world through her illegal contacts than the two naïfs, unless she's conning them. They're also visited by pri (Ian Quinlan), a rare top-sider, who actually goes out in the sunlight (and brings back precious organic tomatoes). The piece is full of neologism and slang, and might be difficult to follow for some. It's entertaining, but a bit overlong. The cast jumps into the radical world with aplomb; Oliveras and Quinlan are especially effective.
Next up was Fish Bowl, by Christine Evans, directed by Melanie Moyer Williams. A strange piece about an ex-soldier (Garrett Hendricks) in a hospital waiting room- as he waits to see if there are any bodily fluids or anything he can donate for money, he chats with the other occupant of the room (Andrea Day), who may not be all she seems.
Next up was Dodo Solastalgia, by Victor I. Cazares, directed by Scott Ebersold. It's a somewhat surreal piece about Josh (Andy Phelan), who's been lured by his crazy badboy ex-boyfriend Adán (Ivan Quintanilla) to Adán's mother's gravesite; it seems that Adán's mother (who, along with Adán, came from Mauritius, before it disappeared due to climate change and rising tides) suffered from Solastalgia (a psychological trauma affecting people whose living environment is impacted negatively), and now Adán has it too, and is also being haunted by a possibly supernatural Dodo. It's a fascinating but confusing play, as the borders of what's "real" and what's not become blurred very quickly. Quintanilla is superb as the tortured-but-sexy Adán, and Phelan (late of MilkMilkLemonade) is a great foil for him.