EARTH CORP -- You have a hot date and you're hoping to get lucky but you need some supplies, so you cruise over to Almart to pick up a brand-new turkey baster -- no grimy used baster is good enough for reproducing with your lady friend. You pick up a new Fizzney movie to set the mood -- nothing sexy enough to cause dangerous feelings of person love though, no need for condoms -- and maybe some happy fizz and happy snacks on your way out the door. Just be sure you spend enough money; if you get called up for a scan of your barcode and Mr. Ice learns you haven't met your mandatory debt limit you could be seriously turkey basted.
This is a day in the dystopian vision of Debbie Andrews and Mike Blaxill, writers of the new rag-tag, upstart, rock-and-roll musical Barcode that closed a run at the Bowery Electric in Manhattan last week.
Barcode follows the adventures of a group of digerati rebels, the Data Jammers, as they hack away at the edifice of global domination by Earth Corp., the parent corporation that has consolidated control over most of the globe. The rebellion is set against a love story between Dorna and Nest, played by the show's writers (a married couple, incidentally), who also serve as the keyboardist and guitarist for Gladshot, the live indie band that carries the rock operatic tunes. Barcode's occupop (rockuppy? occupunk?) score is bubbly, and it moves. (Seriously, I defy any show-watcher to sit quietly, under the influence of a single beer, and not, at the very least, bop your head along with the beat). One recalls the rollicking Green Day musical American Idiot, perhaps because veterans of that show include Barcode's director, Johanna McKeon, as well as a couple cast members.
The world of Barcode is all the more horrifying because for the writers, who are friends of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it seems to be more prophecy than parable. Lyrics like "We strive for a delicate balance of clever distraction and fear / We glorify money and pity the poor / We're keeping it corporate safe and secure" are catchy, but hit a little close to home for comfort. The Data Jammers are an obvious ode to hacktivist groups like Anonymous. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange even gets a personal thank you in the program. (Note to the writers: Thanking Julian Assange but not Bradley Manning is like thanking the cart but not the horse.) The story would be truly terrifying if it wasn't so much fun.
Performed on a crowded stage with an austere set at the Bowery, Barcode has the handmade, bootstrap feel of a musical hoisted together by sweat and toil at an Occupy encampment, and in context it works. But, you get the feeling that, like the Occupy movement itself, it wants to be bigger. One rock anthem after another begs for bigger choreography. The CEO and dictator of Earth Corp., Mr. Ice (played by American Idiot alum Brian Charles Johnson), needs a bigger world to lord over and surveil.
Sources say the musical may get taken on the road as an even further stripped down show, and Barcode as a troupe of vagabonding thespians would be in keeping with the production's ethos. I just hope I get a chance to see it performed at full-size someday. Sadly, funds for such a venture would have to come from somewhere and corporate sponsorship is, for obvious reasons, not turkey-basting likely.
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