Theater / Performance

Future Fest (Luna Theater Company at Adrianne Theater Skybox, 26Apr13)

What they say it is (from the PIFA website):

Glimpse the unknown… and yet-to-come. Luna Theater Company journeys to the future with their second annual play festival, FutureFest. The world premiere of five one-act plays, FutureFest explores how our visions of the future inform our understanding of ourselves and world today. Plays are curated and produced based on the international submission guidelines “If you had a time machine, where would you go in the future.”

(editor’s note: though the advertised description clearly states “five” one act plays, there were six performances at Future Fest).

NEW Tara Says Graphic

We are back again, Adrienne Theater!

Hey Philadelphia promoters: if you hope to snag Clay and Tara for your audience, or you want us to come and see your show . . . and then spout opinions about your art . . . advertise on Funsavers! ( We love theater and a deal.  It’s the best way to get our attention.)

Tara blasts into the future.

Tara blasts into the future.

I believe Clay and I will slightly differ on our assessment of the Future Fest.  We don’t, however, disagree that we love a certain Philadelphia performer who we keep bumping into –we’re sending out our love to Gina Martino.  She’s popped up in many Philly events we’ve attended, and she is consistently a favorite performer of ours, Future Fest being no exception.  Although I was not very enthusiastic about the play that included her first role of the night (a short, mostly silent piece called {sonic art} ), Gina was still an excellent actress, sans lines (the story focused on a culture that had lost verbal language skills). . . proving that acting is as much about what you do, as what you say . . . right?

Brittany Holdahl, however, was my pick for stand-out performer of the night– first as her role as The Bunny in “Keep Your Paws Off My Future” (a lighthearted time-traveling piece in which a human, dressed as a bunny, has become the sarcastic avatar of humanity and overlord of of internet kitty memes) and later as Daisy in “The Big Crunch”.  (Writing this review, I’m slightly freaked out to realize Daisy’s mother gave her hormone-driven twin brother a daisy as a replacement penis . . just one more of this piece’s uncomfortable sexual motifs . . .)

Heeeere's Daisy! (all photos from lunatheater.org)

Heeeere’s Daisy! (all photos on this page are from lunatheater.org)

“The Last Man on Earth”, another one of the six short plays, was well written, super funny, and a stand out of the night.  The dialogue felt just like an argument you would have with your ex-boyfriend.  It was a well done, witty piece of performance art that answered the timeless question- YES, I would choose to face the rest of my life in utter loneliness and isolation than with you, annoying ex-boyfriend.  Yes, I would risk bear attacks, falling into a ditch, or dying a tortured death from bad water and dehydrating diarrhea than join forces with you.  Presentations of these (terrible on paper) scenarios were surprisingly funny (and not nearly as hateful as they might sound here) when presented by these skilled  actors.

No really, I hate you and I want to brave the apocalypse alone.

No really, I hate you and I want to brave the apocalypse alone.

Clay really enjoyed the shortest piece of the night, “Mediation”,  so I think he can explain this skit in a much more elegant fashion, and I’ll leave that one for his input.

Overall, short format skits aren’t my favorite format for theater (or books), but I really enjoyed Future Fest and would recommend it for a lighthearted evening of casual art.

NEW Clay Says graphic Ernie

Of the many shows advertised as part of PIFA, Future Fest kept attracting my attention (I’ll not deny that the images of a robot army, used prominently in their ads, was the main draw).  However, until Funsavers lowered the price from an off-putting $25 down to $15 per ticket, I couldn’t justify the expense.  Thankfully, our thrifty discount shopping snagged us tickets for an entertaining night of lite fare.

There were six short shows on offering; their respective quality, considered as a whole, would warrant a “C” average.  I can be a tough grader, but I have to be honest—the writing wasn’t spectacular, and the futuristic theme (rather than the shows themselves) barely held the performances together.  Far from a unified whole,  Future Fest felt like a sequence of low-budget Fringe-style shows.  Please understand, none of the six pieces were particularly terrible. . . but at the same time, I can’t say that I spotted many moments of stand-out theater.  On the other hand, even if one paid the full price of $25, a mere few bucks per episode wasn’t exactly highway robbery.  Hey, I had a good time hanging out with Tara, and the show’s more introspective, daring moments made me glad we came.

The Big Crunch--the final piece of the show--was probably the most ambitious work, but was also the most disjointed. Entertaining, but ultimately confusing.

The Big Crunch–the final piece of the show–was one of the evening’s most the most ambitious works, but also the most disjointed. Entertaining and confusing.

Start with the good: I liked the cryptic, intentionally esoteric plot of the night’s shortest piece, Meditation. In unexplained homage to the 1980s all-text PC game Zork, Meditation included references to the famous white mailbox, the haunting, empty caverns, and the vital, sustaining comfort of a flickering lantern.   Perhaps this piece was my favorite because it took a drastic chance with source material, combining the disconnected dialog of a Samuel Beckett play with nostalgic nods to the granddaddy of all PC games—never bothering to explain itself on either front.  I’m not always the most astute assessor of ‘meaning’ in art, but this piece seemed particularly opaque . . . a drastic contrast to the more straightforward shows of the evening.  Maybe I just liked it because it was so bravely different from everything else.

Here's a poor quality shot of the show's stage.  Televisions with kitty memes and other lucid items were on display, along with this gentleman's head.

Here’s a poor quality shot of the show’s stage. Televisions with kitty memes and other lucid items were on display, along with this gentleman’s head.

I suppose my runner-up (though they’re completely different styles of theater) would be, as Tara mentioned above, The Last Man on Earth.  Here, Earth’s last two survivors reconvene only to realize that their former stint as boyfriend and girlfriend have left them incapable of getting along—much less procreating to save the human race.  Rather than sticking too closely to the evening’s ‘Future’ theme or resorting to prop-based effects, this piece used decently-written dialog and a witty premise to notable advantage.  The story was comedic without needing to bang you on the head, and the jokes were black, bitter, and relevant.  Even in the future, Exes still piss you off—and we can all relate.  It was light, but tighter and cleverer than many of the evening’s shows.

None of the other four shows were particularly bad, but at the same time, I didn’t feel as though any rose much above a Fringe-y style of simple silliness.  A too-frequent characteristic of low- budget theater is the tendency to include unbelievable characters and unrealistic dialog, thereby giving rise to overacting and stock forms of “bad” delivery .  .  .but then again, I’m not a theater professional—I’m just an asshole critic. Still, I can’t help but feel that too many middling shows overuse zany lines, silly, cartoonish roles, and make only tissue-thin attempts at meaningful narrative.  I’m completely willing to acknowledge that comedy doesn’t (or shouldn’t) always aspire to the standards of high art, but even a goofy romp can succeed with simpler elements.  A good recipe doesn’t require the goofiest situations or pithiest, most snarky banter . . . a good story and believable characters often go further than the wackiest writerly imagination.

sonic art

Pieces like {sonic art} aspired to show us a world where speech has been lost, but a newly discovered piano changes everything.

Final Verdict: Future Fest wasn’t high art, but I don’t think it was aiming as high as I’d have hoped, so perhaps the problem lay with my own expectations.  For $15 ($16.50 with fees), I got six imaginative short-form works presented in rapid fire, well-paced order.  The actors and actresses all did a competent job of bringing some simple scripts to life, while I got off our couch, out of the house, and succeeded at my personal goal of catching at least a couple of the PIFA-oriented shows–I’m calling it a win.  If the next (third-annual) Future Fest  continues to mature and grow, I’d probably be willing to give them another shot.

Advertisements

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: