Theater: “Keep It Cute” Offers Plays With No Characters or Setting

On Nov. 13 and 14, Bottom Line Theater and Without A Box presented “6. Keep it cute or put it on mute, a neo-futurist play” at the Seaver Theater studios.In keeping with the neo-futurist themes of the play, there were no characters or setting. The actors told true stories about themselves and their lives as they wished to share them.The play was created by the performers and is structured as a series of 29 short plays, listed as entrees, and two dessert pieces. Each play was given a number and listed in the audience’s “menus.” The audience was asked to read over the menu and shout out the number of the play they wanted to see next. Ranging from the surreal (23,

The Howling Train

) to the topical (28,

California Gay Wedding

) to the shocking (8,

Drowning

), the selections covered a wide variety of themes. The balance between the moods was well executed and created a well-rounded emotional selection for the show.One tenent of neo-futurism is to create honest theater that tells true stories. The show had no plot, consisting instead of true stories and observations about life.For example, in

Toll Free

, cast member RJ Hinojosa PO ’10 called the Home Shopping Network and ordered a snuggie on speakerphone with the audience for help. In play 22,

Heartbreakers Anonymous

, cast members Ian St. Lawrence PI ’11, Rosemary K PI ’12, Liza Baskiv PI ’12, theory friction practice PO ’12, Nathan Barnett PO ’11, RJ Hinojosa PO ’10, Court Hoang PO ’10, and Philip Geurin PI ’11 shared true stories of times they broke a heart or had their hearts broken. More than once, audience members joined in with a story of their own. The honesty of the show, with the actors portraying powerful emotions that they had experienced, lent a degree of intensity that audiences rarely experience in standard plays.In

Schrodinger’s Christmas

, a young Schrodinger receives a large box on Christmas day only to find a cat inside. (At the performance I attended, the cat was dead, but this may have changed in other shows.) In

The Howling Train

, one of the actors reflects on a nightmarish experience from his childhood that walked the line between dream and reality. For

California Gay Wedding

, the lights flicked on and immediately back off to reveal an empty stage, while the cast stood to the sides looking disappointed.In the first of the dessert pieces,

M&M Memorial

, the audience was given M&Ms to eat in memory of the recently deceased creator of M&Ms. Finally, in the concluding piece,

Sugar, Sugar

, the cast sang and danced to “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, while covering each other with honey and sugar ice cream toppings.Though not all of the plays were as memorable as these, not one was disappointing. The effort the cast had put into the creation of the show certainly paid off and their performances were correspondingly outstanding.The cast also focused on encouraging the audience to reflect on their own lives, especially in number 7,

Refreshments

. Though the scene initially seemed to be an effort to make the audience feel awkward by asking personal questions, the purpose was actually to engage the audience in the same process the actors had gone through in the creation of the show. However, the cast kept the questions fun, including such conversation starters as “When was your first kiss?” and “What is your greatest fear or desire?” With that, the audience was fully immersed in the lingering excitement of becoming part of the show’s creation process.

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