Monday, August 6, 2007

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Chicago is legendary for its theater, so I knew I had to see something while here, be it sketch comedy, improv, full length drama, etc. Fortunately Annika decided to take me to the Neo Futurists, home of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Chicago's longest running show still in production.

It's a show based on a gimmick, but like most gimmicks, it tends to work. Case in point: the neo futurists have been putting on this show since December 2, 1988, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The show is a frenetic presentation of thirty original "plays" in one hour or less, with company members berating the audience, leaping, climbing ladders, throwing candy around the room, and inviting the audience to fingerpaint on sheets of paper in the play entitled "Art Party," among other things. It's highly interactive and a seriously fun experience. Each week they take out a handful of old plays and replace them with fresh ones, creating a completely new show within a few weeks. "If you've seen the show once, you've seen it once," as they tell us.

Out of the thirty plays, some are purely random for the sake of being random, like they stumbled into the prop room of a two bit magic show and decided to see what material they could glean from the objects. Others are poignant pieces, others are silly, others aren't more than five seconds long.

In play #17, "Assault and Cupcake," the entire company assaults two audience members in the front row with water guns for a good twenty seconds, after which one actor sheepishly presents them with a cupcake.

In play #30, "It's hard to be us," two actors stand and shout in rapid fire delivery to opposite sides of the theater.


MY LIFE IS SO HARD!
MINE'S HARDER!
MINE'S HARDER THAN THE HOLOCAUST.
YOU WEREN'T ALIVE DURING THE HOLOCAUST.
THAT'S WHY MY LIFE IS HARDER.

And so on...

Before the show, one of the actors approached Annika and me and asked us our full names, resulting in my favorite play of the evening, Play #3, "This is Your Life! Brought to you by Google." An actor asked Annika to stand up as he read out facts about her that he'd found on Google, then posted her picture on the back wall where it remained for the rest of the show.

I thought it was pretty clever.

The show is recommended not just by Annika, and now me, but also by Fodors Chicago, though the company still tries hard to retain its alternative and quirky status. The stage sits behind old meandering hallways in a second story on the north side of Chicago, with beat up chairs in the lounge. To get in, one must roll a die, paying whatever number comes up plus seven.

All told, it was a perfect night of Chicago theater.

1 comment:

miss sarah (from portland) said...

I took my mom to see this when we were in Chicago back in April and it was brilliant. She was #19 "Gift With Purchase", though she was afraid to open it until much, much later that night. She probably had good reason to be afraid, but turns out it was a package of kleenex. ;) Glad you loved it; I can't wait to go again someday.