2.17.2009

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind



While I was in Chicago, Beau and I went to see Too Much Light Make the Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB), a show by the Neo-Futurist collective. TMLMTBGB is a randomized spectacle of "30 plays in 60 minutes" and it was pretty fantastic. A cast of six actors act out a 30 short-shorts that feature audience participation, stand-up comedy, dancing and singing, monologues, dramatic monologues. Some are very funny. Some are poignant or sad. Collectively, it was a crazy fun show.

Audience members are made to shout out numbers printed out and hung over the stage. On the back of the number is the title of the play. A cast member jumps up to grab the number, announces the title, and then the cast quickly take their places to begin. The play concludes when a cast member says, "Curtain," cuing the audience to shout out more numbers and start the show. All the while, a darkroom clock ticks backward from 60 and the cast and audience are tasked with getting through all the plays...

Of the ones we saw there were many standouts. "Revenge of a Theatre Major" was a one-liner in which a cast member stood there and, in the face of her now-laid off colleagues from college, "Well, I've still got my job!" "Neo-Gay PSA" began with an apology from the cast to "all the gay people in the world" who had been mistreated by America. Gays were asked to stand up to be recognized. Festive music began to play and cast members ran around hugging all the gays and saying, "You're gay--that's great!" Someone brought out a tray of candy and snacks and gave them to the gays. They wheeled out a cooler full of soda and water and offered it to us. You know, it actually did feel kind of nice to be gay for a minute.



Another good one was "Insult/Dance/Repeat," in which one cast member asked an audience member questions like, "Are you a mother?" And when an affirmative answer was given, two cast members ran out while the lights flashed, one sitting on the shoulders of the other, shrieking like banshees, and proceeded to shout something really atrocious at the audience member. In this case, it was something I'm not even comfortable typing out, but I almost peed my pants it was so awful and funny. This went on for some time.

The Neo-Futurists are "committed to randomness." To pay for the show, you pay $9, plus the roll of a die. (So, $10-15 depending.) The shows are run in a random order, and at the end of the show on Fridays and Sundays, one audience member is asked to roll a die. The total of the two rolls (Fri and Sun) is the number of plays the cast has to write and learn by the next week (2-12). After three weeks, you can potentially almost an entirely fresh show with that kind of schedule.

3 comments:

  1. I saw that group many, many years ago now (Seriously, I think it may have been 1997, and I'm sure different members), but remember their show being absolutely hilarious.

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  2. Check out the "This American Life" episode inspired by the Neo-Futurists: http://tinyurl.com/7dbnrf

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  3. my friends in Chicago keep telling me I need to see this, but the timing is never right when I've been there. great review!

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