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BWW Reviews: Dystopian Brilliance of AN INVITATION OUT by Mustard Seed Theatre

Mustard Seed Theatre has provided St. Louis theater-goers with a wonderful season full of premiers that have captivated and entertained audiences. They close with an astoundingly engaging and timely work by playwright Shualee Cook titled An Invitation Out. This fresh pieces utilizes the tropes established by writers like Shaw and Wilde, but instead of an English drawing room, we find ourselves transported to the virtual reality of a chat room in the near future. To me, this is a cautionary tale that beckons us to take a hard look at how intoxicating an imagined world can seem, especially when it allows individual participants to present themselves as they would like to be perceived , rather than as who they actually are. It's challenging and engaging, and though people who have a natural aversion to all things computer related may not get the point, they should make the effort to stick with this tale, because it's a type of reality that is fast becoming concrete in nature.

Wridget is host to a popular chat room online, and because he's seen the joy that "unplugging", getting married, and having a child has brought to his sister (Buttercup) and her husband (FlyByNite), he decides to propose to Flutterbye. He's invited his Aunt Scandalicious, and his sibling and her mate have brought along their nanny, Raskin. Crashing the party is a hacker known as Xlucki, whose gender is purposefully nebulous in nature.

Bob Thibaut does a splendid job as the confused Wridget, who dreams of a life more fulfilling, but is afraid to take the plunge into the real world until he meets the rebellious Raskin, well played by Ellie Schwetye. Laura Ernst is the very definition of a narcissist as Flutterbye, in fact, it's her religion of choice. Alicia Reve Like is funny and bitchy at the same time as Wridget's Aunt Scandalicious, and Julie Venegoni (Buttercup) and Daniel Lanier (FlyByNite) do strong work as the married couple whose bliss Wridget aspires to emulate. Justin Ivan Brown and Nicole Angeli do a great job of playing Xluci in his/her various incarnations, and also as a butler and maid, respectively. Richard Strelinger neatly rounds out the cast as the Reverend Variety.Org, who's religious affiliation is as comically all over the map as his character's name would suggest.

Deanna Jent proves, once again, why she's so adept at bringing new plays to the stage. Her work here is simply superlative, aided in no small part by the sound/projections of Chris Jent. Mark Wilson's set design is a futuristic marvel, and Michael Sullivan's lighting design, along with Beth Ashby's costumes add immeasurably to the overall feel.

Playwright Shualee Cook has concocted a modern classic, with echoes of the past, that smartly conveys the world we're headed toward. We're privy to a time, most of which is already here, when avatars will allow us to escape our true selves, and conversations will be sprinkled liberally with witticisms that immediately become viral and part of the language we use. It's a scary and lonely future that's depicted, but it's one that we need to visit in order to better understand how technology is allowing us to escape from reality, when we actually need to supplant ourselves in the here and now to address cultural conditions and situations that are dividing us instead of uniting us. True brilliance is on display here.

Do yourself a huge favor and attend Mustard Seed Theatre's production of An Invitation Out. It's a disturbingly accurate view of the dystopian world we're headed toward with our over reliance on technological innovations in place of genuine human connections, and it continues through May 3, 2015.

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From This Author - Chris Gibson