An hour of fast-moving fun
The Neo-Futurists’ “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” is the Curves of theater. Scoot into Woolly Mammoth, and 60 minutes later you’ll emerge dramatically fit from watching the five-member cast sprint through 30 plays in an hour.
That’s right, 30 plays in 60 minutes — just think, you could dispense with an entire year of cultural obligations in one fell swoop and then never feel guilty for spending the rest of your leisure time taking in the “Benson” boxed set or alphabetizing your “Transformers” action figures.
The Chicago-based troupe has been providing art for the Adderall set since the Reagan administration. Nearly 20 years of performing at breakneck speed has not dulled the Neo-Futurists’ wit or timing, as most of the 27 works (the clock ran out opening night with three plays left to go) presented during the brief Washington run by Bilal Dardai, Dean Evans, Sharon Greene, Kristie Koehler and Jay Torrence are timely, evocative and even sometimes thought-provoking.
The ideal audience member for “Too Much Light” should not be reticent, since the house lights are left on through most of the show and actors crawl all over ticket holders during certain scenes. Members of the crowd are picked to participate in many of the blackout sketches, including one of the funniest and most spontaneous — a competitive candy-necklace nibble. The audience also chooses the order of the plays by shouting out numbers, which are plucked by the cast from a clothesline dangling over the stage.
Most of the short-order works concentrate on zaniness, the most notable being an after-school special where a chain-smoking counselor dispenses such advice as, “Don’t worry about your friend. Pretty people have easy lives,” and “If you really want to help your pal, drink some gasoline,” an “Art. I Birth You” sketch where the cast pushes out laborious and pretentious statements about creativity, and a bit titled “Half Naked Ninja Pudding Pie” with kickboxing actors combining martial arts and instant desserts.
Other hilarious moments include “Fascionista!” starring snarling slaves to fashion who proclaim that “red is the new black” and “a green that’s hard to describe,” a dreamy Laurie Anderson-like movement piece featuring Miss Greene about horrendous bridesmaid dresses and mothers and daughters.
Things get briefly serious in “26,558,” where the actors reel off the names and traumatic injuries of the fighting men and women who survived the war in Iraq and a sketch where cast member Mr. Torrence winsomely muses on his perceptions about Jesus.
The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of “Too Much Light” evokes high-energy fun, but there is also ample room for error. Technical problems and flubbed lines kept the hour from running completely glitch-free. As long as you have a loosey-goosey attitude about art and not a lot of lofty expectations, the Neo-Futurists’ show delivers a canon of theatrical styles in less time than it takes to watch a one-act.
WHAT: “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” by the Neo-Futurists
WHERE: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW
WHEN: 7 and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1 and 3 p.m. Sundays. Through tomorrow.
WEB SITE: www.woollymammoth.net