The Neo-Futurusts, a popular Chicago theater collective, are back for the 5th time at Wooly Mammoth. They seem to like them over there. They are performing their long running signature event Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, in which they attempt to perform 30 mini plays in 60 minutes. The crowd last Thur seemed to like them too. Uproarious laughter, thunderous applause. At least a third of them cheered when asked if they’d been to a TMLMTBGB show before. So why was I so underwhelmed?
Ok, I know why, but I can’t figure out a way to write this review without coming off like an elitist comedy snob… so I’ll just own it, I’m an elitist comedy snob. A little more on how the show works: There are 30 numbers printed on pieces of paper hanging from a clothes line on stage. Everyone in the audience is handed a sheet with a number that corresponds to a title of one of the “plays”. The troupe consists of 3 men and 2 women who start an hour long timer and then when they yell “curtain!” you are supposed to shout out a number. One member, usually a taller one, jumps up to grab the sheet, reads the title of the play, and then the group scamper around to setup a chair or table or other prop and have at it. The mini plays are mostly comedies, a handful are political, and often there is interaction with the audience. There is a sense of honesty about everything, they don’t play characters per se, and use their real names. The gimmick seems inventive at first, but the problem is, the order of the plays doesn’t really matter. This isn’t like Upright Citizens Brigade where an audience yells out one word and they improv for an hour. They know all these plays by heart. They’re just performing them in a different order each night. And they’re all so random anyway… who cares?
I like the performers though, they all seem like very nice people. In fact I chatted with the creator Greg Allen before the show, who has been doing this since 1988, and he was a guy I’d like to hang out with. The problem is that this was probably really funny stuff in 1988, but we have the internet now and Adult Swim and stuff. This was just all too chippery, and started grating a bit on my jaded hipster self. Even though they say the f-word a lot and shove ice cream up their vaginas, it came off as trying too hard. It was like edgy-lite. I was never bored though, and there were a few clever bits, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes when they were all high fiving each other at the end cause they made it with 43 seconds left on the clock. Well, you did write these plays to specifically fit into the 60 min…
What it boils down to is that this is a show for people who are like the “crazy one” in their financial consulting office. It’s for mainstream artsy people. It’s for the people that hang out at The Soundry in Vienna. And you’ll go to this show and it’ll be a smug fest with all these other “weird” but not weird people and you’ll laugh extra loud so everyone knows you got the “obscure” but not obscure reference. And in that sense, it’s a success. And I don’t dislike the people that would like this either. I actually would recommend this to more people that I know than not.
Seriously though, I’m sorry for being so pretentious. Unless you’re as obnoxiously full of yourself as I am, you’ll probably dig this show.
TOO MUCH LIGHT MAKES
THE BABY GO BLIND
(30 PLAYS IN 60 MINUTES)
created by Greg Allen, written, directed & performed by THE NEO-FUTURISTS
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND
WITH A NEW SLATE OF PLAYS AND
NEO CAST MEMBERS!
April 20 – May 1, 2011
Appropriate for ages 14 and up.
Running Time: 70min (no intermission)
WOOLLY MAMMOTH THEATRE COMPANY
641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Admin: 202-289-2443 • Box Office: 202-393-3939