Honestly, if anyone other than the New York Neo-Futurists presented a show called Rape, Rape, Rape, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, Genocide, Genocide, Cats, I would avoid it like the plague. Yet this past Friday night I found myself standing in line outside of the Kraine Theatre once again, waiting to see another special edition of that Neo-Futurist staple show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB, or simply TML for those in the know).
In honor of the Neos ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes, I'm going to try to give you 10 reasons to see them in 20 words. Ready? Curtain!
8. Laughs abound. 3. Occasional food. 1. Knowledge. 2. Cats. 10. Multiple forms. 9. Amazing performers. 4. Participatory. 7. Nudity, cursing, alcohol. 8. Cult following. 5. Smart but unpretentious work.
This weekend's themed edition of Too Much Light... did a great deal to capture the strengths of the NY Neos by bringing attention to the extremes of their range as performers and writers. In between shows about cats, which are hilarious (8.), some of the best of the most serious TML fare get to have their moment on the stage. This is an adult show all around, not only because of the occasional nudity, the use of real alcohol, and the language (7.) but also because of the adult subject matter.
Yet the form of multiple plays in quick succession resembles a kind of adult Sesame Street, which appeals to both the theatre enthusiast and the theatre neophyte. If you love theatre, you'll love seeing the variety of performers and performance forms (10), and if you're just there for the content, you'll get plenty of that too. It is clear that these talented performers (9.) have studied their facts (1.), and they teach the audience about certain realities through the pieces they perform.
Of course, like any other NY Neo show, the audience chooses the order of the shows (4.) and even becomes involved in other ways, which sometimes involve eating food (3.). The audience at any TML show with a special theme is always a mix of those who go repeatedly and know the structure, and those newcomers who either come with some seasoned veterans, or venture in on their own.
Both performers and repeat audience members alike are incredibly welcoming, and the warm, fuzzy, feeling of a TML crowd is always a place where I feel at home. I think this has a lot to do with the inclusive nature of the show, which merges a solid fan-base (8.) with work that seeks to make everyone feel involved. Even when the themes of the pieces are meant to shock the audience in order to get a point across, the audience is always part of the show, involved in rather than removed from the process of enlightenment (5.).
So what about this theme? As I said before, there is a mix between funny, lighter pieces and more serious, heavier ones. I think the juxtaposition is quite interesting. On the one hand, the cat pieces seem like palate cleansers, yet they also serve another purpose. The serious pieces are all about aspects of life -- such as rape, abortion, AIDS, homophobia and racism, to name a few -- that are so awful that they actually border on the absurd.
There is nothing funny about these topics themselves, nor how they are presented, but there is something darkly funny about the fact that we still need to remind people that these things are bad. It's not only funny, of course, it's also frightening, awful and embarrassing. The NY Neos are masters of these deft redirections, and sitting in that room in the Kraine Theatre, I always enjoy the odd narratives that the randomly chosen order of the night ends up constructing. What can art do to help us explore the topics of rape, AIDS, genocide, and cats? It can make us think, and that's always something the NY Neos do for me. As the top of their program (or "menu," again for those in the know) says, "The time is meow." So go see the New York Neo-Futurists right meow!