by Brandon Kosters
“HI WHAT’S YOUR NAME!” cast member Heather Riordan would screech at guests as they entered the theatre. She was listening to loud music through headphones. She’d ask for your name, and write down whatever she heard you say onto a name-tag. My name was “Pringles.”
“Too Much Lady Makes the Baby Go Blind” (performed at the Victory Garden’s Theater on April 19th) was the first offical performance of The Neo-futurists “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” with an exclusively female cast.
The Chicago-based troupe has been performing “Too Much Light” for twenty years. “Too Much Lady” featured cast members currently working with the troupe, like Columbia graduate Megan Mercier who joined in 2008, and Noelle Krimm, who had originally joined in 1999.
The show is structured in a format that is malleable. No two performances are ever quite the same.
Every week, the troupe has 30 different short plays to perform within an hour. A darkroom timer is set to 60 minutes, and the show begins. A clothes line is suspended over the stage, with thirty numbered pieces of paper pinned to it. Each number corresponds to a short play, typically 90 seconds in length. Each audience member is given a “menu” with the names of the plays and their corresponding numbers listed. The audience calls out a number, and the first one a cast member hears is the one picked.
The play “Presidential Cunnilingus” consisted of all right performers talking about how they would exploit their political power by having politicians and terrorists go down on them. They ended the piece by thrusting their crotches in the faces of members of the audience.
In “Heather Gets Classy” (my personal favorite) performer Heater Riordan sings while doing a handstand and manipulating shark-slipper puppets with her feet.
Every performer has a hand in writing the micro-plays within the play, and every week the show is modified. A couple of plays are taken out of the show, and a couple are put in.
The show occupies a space where traditional theater and performance art converge.
They don’t expose their artifice as much as they celebrate it. They use few props, will at times openly acknowledge to the audience when they’ve made a mistake, and there are many instances where they encourage participation from audience members.
They insist that they don’t really “act” or “play characters,” but this may because all performers are slightly diseased in the head. After a certain point, it becomes difficult to discern when you’re performing and when you’re just you.
Whatever it is they do, and whatever you want to call it, it sure is entertaining. Funny, political, bizarre, alternately abrasive and cute, you should check them out at their home theater in Andersonville. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 and Sundays at 7. Ticket prices are $9 plus the role of a die ($10 -$15).
5153 North Ashland Ave.,