Photo Colin Hovde
Apparently We Love DC loves the Neo-Futurists. Fellow theatre writers Jenn and Don have also seen, “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” during past visits to the area. The Chicago-based theatre troupe have been performing versions of the show for over 21 years with shows both in their home theatre (called The Neo-Futurarium) in Chicago and on the road.
Luckily our coverage of the show isn’t excessive, because no two TMLMTBGB shows are the same. The premise of the show is to perform 30 “plays” in 60 minutes. After each performance an audience member rolls dice to determine how many plays from the current list of 30 will be retired forever and replaced with newly written material.
The performances are chaotic, spontaneous, and audience driven- but it’s not Improv. The skits will invoke feelings of happiness, confusion, or outrage- but it’s not drama. What occurs on stage is performance art that’s somewhat unclassifiable.
On the scale of Orange Juice to Orange Crush- it’s Sunny D.
On their website the Neo-Futurists describe their work as, “theater that is a fusion of sport, poetry, and living-newspaper. Non-illusory, interactive performance that conveys our experiences and ideas as directly and honestly as possible.”
The players use their real names, interact with the audience at all times, and from some fact checking- use stories from their own personal lives.
Each audience member is handed a sheet of 30 plays (that are really more like short skits). The audience shouts out numbers from the “menu” of shows and the actors on stage perform the piece, marking the end of the scene with a loud, “CURTAIN!” From there the audience bark out another number and like a juke-box, the players reset and perform. This process goes on until all 30 plays are performed or an on-stage timer goes off after the 60 minute time limit. The performance I saw finished with 45 seconds left on the clock- if anything these guys are very efficient.
The plays vary in tone, format, and effectiveness. Here’s a sampling from my show- but beware your experience will vary:
Hold Me While I Read The News:
An audience member holds one of the actresses while she reads depressing headlines from the day’s newspaper.
Tableau For Three
The story of life and death reenacted through dinner chairs.
About A Buck-Seven
A statement on the arts in context of Iraqi currency.
An actress sets a picnic, the perfect romantic scene, and proceeds to stuff a dessert item up her skirt.
“Too Much Light”, is short, entertaining, but not entirely satisfying. The 30 plays is like a snack mix: you may end up with a yummy cheeto or a stale pretzel. It may not be a full meal but it will fulfill you need for sustenance.