Who says thespians won't pay students to strip on stage? Is it wrong for a play to mock organized religion? Why not revise Othello? With their performance Tuesday night of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind the Neo-Futurists turned the tables on conventional theatre. A large part of the comedy troupeıs success lies in their ability to address weighty issues under the guise of sophomoric humor. Troupe members Greg Allen, Sean Benjamin, Rachel Claff, Noelle Krimm and John Pierson carry off even the most absurd lines "What the fuck is gay? He has his hand on my dick but is that gay?" and "Iıd like to hit you with a bus" with a straight face. Though the Neo-Futurists appear to sacrifice theatric purpose in favor of quick comedic barbs, one cannot ignore the weighty issues the group addresses: sexual experimentation, invasiveness of the media, the creative process and self-respect. Luckily, what has the potential to veer off into a scaled-down version of Mad TV is instead carried off with the professionalism needed to get the audience to digest the thorny issues in the production.
Walking into Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the audience knows that this will not be a typical theatre performance. The price of admission is dictated by the roll of a die and quirky nametags are assigned to all. In keeping with the participatory nature of the show, the audience members dictate the order of plays, screaming out their personal preference akin to ordering a hot dog at a sporting event. If the troupe sells out a performance, they promise to order out for food. With all these eccentricities, it would be easy for the Neo-Futurists to take their outlandish stage behavior to the level of melodrama.
Opening with "The Dangerous Truth Lies Within This Play," the Neo-Futurists displayed their gutsy lack of restraint with an imitation of conservatives condemning art. One character says, "I guess artıs confusing" and another adds, "And subversive." In "Hollywood Endings, Part I," the troupe mocks post-modernist literature, as well as Beckettıs Godot. Godot not only manages to show up, he also frees a woman from bondage and leads others triumphantly away. "A Neo-Futurist 12 1/2 Question Meta-Survey" was the next two-minute long play. In this sketch, Sean chose a random student from the crowd and proceeded to ask him enigmatic questions. While it was obvious that the student could have said anything and the situation would have made it humorous, this takes away from the point of it all.
This is not to say that Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind does not have its meaningful moments. In "Full Frontal," Rachel speaks of how one woman is ashamed of her body and thinks it would be better to cover herself than let the audience see her nude form. Rachel talks about how rare it is for people to believe that their own body can be beautiful. Instead of continuing this myth, Rachel tells the audience to believe it when someone tells you that youıre beautiful.
Though Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is about over-the-top theatrics, small moments such as one characterıs sexual experimentation in college provide much needed seriousness. Greg questions not only if his actions are gay, in the playlet "Freshman", but what the definition of gay is. "What the fuck is gay? He has his hand on my dick but is that gay?" Though it was easy to ignore the implications of the issue and focus instead on its comic nature, the sketch describes the anxiety and confusion of an uncertain time for many people. Even though Greg appeared to be unsettled at the thought of his "alternative" actions, the final line makes it abundantly clear what his choice would be in the future: "If I had to do it again, Iıd take that dick and suck him dry."
The Neo-Futurists are the perfect show for Oberlin. With intelligent, well-written dialogue interspersed with bawdy lines, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind was an eclectic mix of theatric genres.
The troupe keeps the audience laughing as the audience tries to guess which social or cultural convention they will step on next.
On stage: The New-Futurists recently performed their comedic sketches at the Cat in the Cream. (photo by Becky Tuch)
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 7, October 29, 1999
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