New Colony Takes You on a Trip
THE PSYCHONAUT LIBRARIANS???
The title alone suggests you’re going to be in for something a bit out of the ordinary.
It begs a few questions like—what do psychonauts have to do with librarians? What is a psychonaut anyway? All of these questions are answered during the play, but more are raised.
The play begins with psychedelic projections cast onto pure white bookshelves. Meanwhile the cast assembles on stage. You feel yourself being transported to a different world. Or, perhaps you’re just on some mind-altering substance.?
You are then asked —are you a psychonaut? That is, someone who believes in finding the alternate “Anyverse”.
We meet psychonaut Jane, played by Christine Mayland Perkins, who as a child could see this different universe. We travel with her to years later when she’s lost that ability.
She is accompanied by a few other characters: Hester, her mother, played by David Cerda; Rosemary and Emerick, her fellow librarians played by Morgan McNaught and Michael Peters; and PJ the security guard played by Carlos Olmedo. With these characters, Jane goes on a literal and figurative journey to regain this special ability she lost years ago.
Expand Your Mind to New Possibilities
The idea of psychonauts is to search for and experience new universes either by natural talent, like Jane did, or with some “Any Juice”that others rely on. All these psychonauts are librarians. The library, after all, is the perfect symbolic setting for these explorers, as it represents a place to expand your mind.
As a child exploring this alternate universe, Jane meets an imaginary friend, Dewey, played by Matt Farabee. However, in this other universe controlled by the Sandman (Jack McCabe), Dewey is real and feels to be a real part of Jane. Playwright Sean Kelly takes this obscure idea and creates a visual for you without having to directly spell it out.
This play becomes an extended metaphor for how we lose the ability to see things differently because we become afraid. Like Jane, we retreat and stop exploring these other universes.
The plot moves quickly without delaying on minor details. It becomes an archetypical hero/adventure tale, replete with a monster fighting montage.
All the actors play their parts well. The plot is interesting, though some might find the typical-ness of the hero tale not so original.
Outstanding Tech Support
The set and sound - desgined by Yeaji Kim and Matthew Muñiz, respectively - is absolutely fantastic. The barebones set is a pure white library creating a base upon which other worlds are created. Now a dreamspace, then a cave, then a collage of color-changing leaves— all accomplished elegantly mainly by moving bookcases to alter the space.
Then sound is added and you are transported to the next level.
None of these technical effects overpower the show. They work well together to create many different worlds and visuals for the audience to really experience what the characters are seeing.
A Lasting Impression
This play is an excellent addition to The New Colony’s stack of world premieres. Though some metaphors might have gone too deep to really mean anything, the general ideas presented are ones you’ll still think about after it’s all said and done. The show pairs just the right amount of fun and lightheartedness with some serious thoughts and ideas.
The world of the PSYCHONAUT LIBRARIANS and the other Anyverse, are not ones you’ll soon forget.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through February 12th
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
The Den Theatre
1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622