BWW Review: Pointless Theatre's .d0t:: A ROTOPLASTIC BALLET Brings Futurism to Life
If you've ever dreamed of seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda collaborate with Daft Punk, Pointless Theatre's .d0t:: A ROTOPLASTIC BALLET may be the closest you'll get. Heavily inspired by Italian futurist artist Fortunato Depero, the show incorporates masterful puppetry, visuals like a pop-up book brought to life, and clever hip-hop musical verses written and delivered by Navid Azeez. It's a lot of ideas wrapped up in one experience, but they cohere beautifully.
On entering the intimate performance space, it's clear .d0t will be immersive. A familiar-looking two-man band (Nick Wilby and composer Mike Winch) sets the mood with relaxed synthesizer and guitar. Appropriately, they're wearing face-obscuring space helmets (costume designer Frank Labovitz). We're soon plunged into a vision of the future, aided by top-notch lighting (E-hui Woo) and stylish projections (Lauren Joy). Azeez stars with relentless, infectious energy as NAVI, the last human on earth. He's dressed in a puzzling bright blue, Wonka-esque ensemble, complete with wig, but he sells it. Besides his grooving robot band, NAVI's only companion is Olive, an operating system (voice by Rachel Menyuk, text/story by Aaron Bliden). Olive is utilitarian but strangely poetic and snarky as she instructs NAVI to feed energy to "The System", which appears to be an automated city made of two-dimensional puppets in the Depero aesthetic.
The opening number, "Good Morning System", has NAVI overseeing this machine-like city with joy. An adorable rooster crows, and the workers greet NAVI in a singsong voice. The whole sequence is visually and aurally satisfying. Inevitably, the well-oiled machine encounters a glitch in the most unlikely of places, which sparks a philosophical question: is NAVI the one keeping the System alive, or is he actually an impediment to its progress? It's not hard to see the parallel to the present day as humans are eclipsed by machines in the job market.
Fortunately, it's entertaining to witness NAVI find the answer to this weighty question in song. With catchy ones like "Junky Bug Out" and "goto BACKUP", he attempts to fix the expanding virus, but it gets out of hand.
That is the production's biggest weakness - the predictable story - but that's not really the point. We've seen enough human vs. machine material to know how things might go, but this gem of a production achieves the near-impossible task of presenting the concept in a new and interesting light, combining elements of the familiar in an original and unexpected way. .d0t is unlike anything I've seen in the DC area in recent memory, and I'm unlikely to forget it.
Running time: approximately 45 minutes with no intermission.
Pointless Theatre's .d0t:: A ROTOPLASTIC BALLET runs through May 6, 2017, at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. Tickets can be purchased via www.pointlesstheatre.com.
Photo: Nick Wilby, Mike Winch, and Navid Azeez in .d0t:: A ROTOPLASTIC BALLET; courtesy of Pointless Theatre website.