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Theater Sat Oct 26 2013
From the moment an audience member enters The Neo-Futurarium for a showing of the The Sovereign Statement, they are entered into a life-sized board game on the subject of autocracy.
Upon walking into the theater's lobby, "The State Park," I was treated to a DMV-style "registration" whereupon I was issued a passport, five voting slips and an ID card (a two of hearts from a standard deck of playing cards). I was then treated to an evening-long meditation on themes of democracy and the building of a nation. The piece, which is steeped in the neo-aesthetics of chance, self-referentialness, dissolution of the fourth wall, and audience participation, served as a cautionary tale in the development of new nations and the use of figureheads to effectively govern.
Created by ensemble member Bilal Dardai and directed by Brandon Ray (the new artistic director at Red Tape Theater) the piece features a cast that includes longtime ensemble member Phil Ridarelli. Ridarelli and Dardai are outstanding in their roles as "Protagonist" and "Narrator". Ridarelli, in particular, was well-cast in his turn as a first-bumbling but ever-increasingly egomanicial ruler of Neovokia (the nation that the audience created that evening by popular vote). Also mentionable were Jen Ellison and Gwynn Fulcher in their roles as both second-to-the-chairman and overthrower-of-the-established-government.
I don't want to give too much away, as much of the fun that comes from seeing a Neo-Futurist play this well done comes from the element of surprise, but I will say that all player did a fantastic job throughout the show of keeping the themes alive and moving the action forward in a way that was at once playful and thought-provoking.
The one flaw in the piece, if there were any, was the neat tying-up of plot conflicts at the end of the show. Again, don't want to reveal too much here, but the notion that the only thing one can do a sovereign nation is destroy it didn't sit well with me. And perhaps that is Dardai's point--that there is no good way forward in all things government.
Those few moments aside, The Sovereign Statement is a fun and shining example of Neo-Futurism at is best.
The Sovereign Statement plays on Thursdays - Saturdays at 8pm at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. Tickets are $20, $10 for students and seniors and pay-what-you-can on Thursdays. Tickets are available at neofuturists.org.