SF X 5 (drama)
J. Scott Bronson, James Arrington, Thom Duncan, Shannyn Walters
Ivan Angus Wolfe
Well, I saw SF X 5 last weekend and took liberal notes - so I feel that as thisis the last weekend to see it, I'll give a quick review to (hopefully) enticeall of you to go see it.
There are "spoilers" below, though I don't give away any endings, but if you'drather not know, just skip this email until you have seen them.
Before getting into each individual play, I would like to comment on the titleof the groups of plays as a whole. Five short Science Fiction plays is slightlyinaccurate - as two of the plays are clearly fantasy - but I also understandthat most of the public would have been confused by something like "fivespeculative fiction plays" since Speculative fiction is a term generally onlyused in SF/F circles, and "five Science Fiction and Fantasy plays" may havecaused layout problems (not to mention SF/F X 5 would have looked like analgebraic equation, not a title).
On to the first play:
"Youtahneeks" by James Arrington
"the matriarch Aunt Pearl addressing her clan."
This play is somewhat in the same vein as the book "Hotel of the Mysteries"where archeologists dig up relics of our time and imbue into them religiousmeanings and study even the most simple of concepts as though they were the verymysteries of the Universe.
The basic setup is that Paleolingusits of the future have found the "holy book"of Microsoft and a damaged copy of a Farley Family reunion videocassette (whichwas very brave of Arrington to put into this play). Using these and othersources the paleolinguists recreate, in a stuffy, stilted and very academic (andvery funny) way the dialect of Utah (particularly, as the play puts it "AmericanFarkisms") was pronounced and used in such everyday situations as arguments ondates and parents saying farewell to their children attending BYU. (Topronounce the title correctly, rhyme it with the term "eubonics" that linguistsuse today for the African- American dialect).
This play is basically the equivalent of an overlong Saturday night live sketch. It's really funny at first, but it really is a one-joke play. There's nothingbeyond making fun of the Utah dialect (or at least the way paleolinguists wouldtreat it in the future). There are some very funny skits and pronunciations,and then there are more. And more. And more. It gets tiresome. Thisparticular sketch (it is more of a sketch than a play) would have benefittedfrom being half as long.
But it is funny.
"Fata Morgana" by Scott Bronson
Q: Are you God?
A: I don't remember.
This ties for the best play in the bunch. It starts off with an obviously Hindudeity doing Yoga on the stage, a very American farmer walking across in thebackground and a vaguely European peasant girl wandering around. Quiteintriguing set up, especially when the peasant girl begins pestering the Hindudeity about "what it's all for." The girl seems unaware of the American farmersetting up a table with food on it in the background until the very end, whenthe farmer tries to dissuade her from following the deity's advice through sometechnobabble.
At first I thought it was a science vs. religion theme, but I've come to decidethat this play was more about physical vs. spiritual. The Hindu deity is aboutas Eastern and spiritual as possible (especially if you understand the Hinduphilosophy of rejecting the spiritual) - and the American farmer was about asphysical and Western as you can get. He was taking care of his bodily needs byeating, while the deity was overcoming the body through Yoga and meditation.Very thought provoking - of all the plays, the most likely to create discussionin the car on the way home at the very least.
"On the way out" by Shannyn Walters
"No dear, I'm still dead."
This play may have been more enjoyable, but the dead lady was breathing!!!! Itdoesn't take much to get me to suspend my disbelief, but a dead lady taking inrather large breaths of air (especially when she has a purse on her stomach toaccentuate the fact) ruins it for me. I could accept it when she "comes back tolife" halfway through the play (despite her protestations that she's stilldead), but at the beginning and end, when she's supposed to be dead, she istaking in large, gulping breaths of air that cause the purse on her stomach tomove several inches. It might have been better to have no purse on her stomachand tell the actress to breathe shallowly.
This play was rather funny, and the characters all well acted. The dialogue waswell written, and the storyline moved rather quickly. I enjoyed it for thatpart. That's all I can say.
"Let the Memories Die." by Thom Duncan
"The fringe benefits are great."
The basic set up is one that hardly needs a Science Fiction set up. A housemust be demolished to make way for some important building or another, but theold lady who lives there won't leave - at least not until she sees her niece. Her niece "Sunny" is a member of the "Star Corps" or something like that (Iforget the exact name).
The play at first seems odd, in that Sunny is narrating everything asit happens (she says, for example "She reached out to touch me" as theother actress reaches out to touch her). At first I found thisannoying and began to wonder what this play had to do with anythingreally SF other than a few odd references here and there, and then anending worthy of M. Night Shyamalan sneaked up on me and redeemed theentire piece. I can't give it away, of course - but it was a goodending, and the actress - despite having some difficulty with herlines, managed to pull it off very well.
"The M.A.K.E.R." by James Arrington
This is the other one that ties fro best in the bunch. Absolutely hilarious,it's also a fair Garden of Eden allegory that probably has deeper meaningsbehind it, but I was too busy having fun to try to do any close readings of theplay.
Basically, the richest man in the Universe spends all of his money to buy amachine called "The M.A.K.E.R." which will give him whatever he wants. However,to distinguish between casual conversation and true wishes, he must use the tripword "pray" to activate the maker (which is artificially intelligent, speaks,and has an interesting sense of humor). The rich dude locks himself in awarehouse, totally sealed off from the rest of humanity, convinced he will livethe rest of his days in debauchery. Of course, as is common ever since geniesfirst appeared, what you wish for may not always be what you really want, andhaving all your desires granted can be rather boring.
There you go. Hope everyone who can see these plays will. I enjoyed myself andcame away glad I saw it.
© 2001 Ivan Angus Wolfe