Edge, Reviews, Theater

’30 Plays in 60 Minutes’ a hilarious, hyper-speed gem by CaneStage Theatre

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Playing director a scene, Adam Mariano (right) instructs Lara Hopkins and Nathaniel TwoBears how to perform their lines - with TwoBears receiving the brunt of increasingly difficult, bizarre direction. Photo credit: Grace Wehniainen

You know when you’re sitting at a show—be it a school play or your sibling’s orchestra concert—and can’t stop wondering, how much longer could this possibly go on for?

CaneStage Theatre’s take on “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” is not one of those shows. Not just because the performance, which premiered Thursday, Nov. 1, is far too enjoyable to warrant the “how-much-longer” treatment, but because it actually, well, goes ahead and tells you how much longer you’ve got all the way through, on a big-screen countdown behind the stage.

It’s the whole conceit of the show, whose subtitle, “30 Plays in 60 Minutes,” tells you just about all you need to know. The bite-sized plays, first written by the experimental troupe Neo-Futurists in 1988, happen in a fluid order chosen by the audience—you just yell out the number play you’d like to see, as listed in the “menu” of your program, and enjoy as the players scramble to pull that number off a clothesline and act out its corresponding scene.

When it’s done, and you hear “curtain”—that’s your cue to shout out another number.

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Hollingsworth and Two Bears perform a scene together, with just 8 minutes, 5 seconds left on the clock. Photo credit: Grace Wehniainen

It is exciting to watch knowing that the troupe (in this case, a four-person ensemble) must be on their toes and ready to handle whatever play is thrown their way. And ready, they are.

Throughout the show, actors Kat Hollingsworth, Lara Hopkins, Adam Mariano and Nathaniel TwoBears—none of them theatre majors, by the way—are constantly moving. They’re tearing down numbers, moving props to create simple, done-in-seconds sets, and leading audience members on stage to get involved in the fun.

Their own energy and excitement permeate every scene, which is doubly impressive, because they have no way to prepare practical transitions between plays. They oscillate between simple, subtle scenes and loud, absurd ones, all equal in their head-scratching, knee-slapping oddity.

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Toward the end of the show, with only a few plays remaining, Hopkins and Mariano shred one of the plays' numbers in a scene that, today, rings reminiscent of Banksy. Photo credit: Grace Wehniainen

There is breakdancing, shoes flying, and water squirting. Though of course when, exactly, those avant-garde antics occur are a mystery for show-goers. Names on the menu are rightfully cryptic (from “Hair Director” to “How to War” to “This Play Does Not Exist”), so you never know what you’re getting into by calling out a number. It’s better that way.

When you check in up front, you take a name tag, assuming another identity (I was Alfonzo) while the players on stage maintain their own, referring to each other by their real names. This sort of switcheroo makes the experience especially immersive—I couldn’t even take notes, nor did I want to, because the action on stage was so involving, and I constantly feared (but, really, hoped) that I might be one of the ones to be pulled on stage. Fortunately, I was.

I laughed, a lot. The show was welcoming, too, which is not something you hear much about theatrical performances. But this is based on an Off-Off-Broadway play, after all, and the cozy, intimate setting of the Cosford really helped with that feeling of involvement.

Ultimately, it might have lasted only 60 minutes, but I could have easily stayed for another 180.

If you go

Who: CaneStage Theatre Company

Where: Cosford Cinema

When: Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. , Nov. 3 at 7 p.m., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.

How: Just show up—admission is free. And if you
participate, you can win some string lights, too.

November 3, 2018

Reporters

Grace Wehniainen


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