The lights dim in the mythical Neo-Futurist theater, currently featuring a plethora of musical instruments, both electric and acoustic, strewn about the stage. A blank white projector glow shifts to show a title, reading “Here Comes the Sun (not that version),” as an actor comes to the front and asks every audience member to take out their cell phones, turn up the volume, and set alarms for one second. He then instructs the audience to start their alarms as soon as the flashlight beam shining from his outstretched hand hits their faces. Like a digital wave, the phones go off, first only a few iPhone and Android notification rings. By the time the actor reaches the center of the house, the wave has become a tsunami, as all the alarms ring out simultaneously. The differing tones, beeps, buzzes, and even the sounds of those that have their phones turned off imitating their ringers ebb and flow until the soundscape reaches an almost zen-like calm. After about 20 seconds, the actor cues the audience to stop their phones, which they predictably fumble at, and after some relatable laughs and chuckles at the experience, a bell rings. One song out of sixty.
The Goddamn Introduction
If you haven’t heard of the Neo-Futurists, performing in their so-called “Futurarium” tucked away around the corner from the Hopleaf in Andersonville, you may have heard of their long running show, The Infinite Wrench, previously called Love Makes the Baby Go Blind. Shows produced by the Neo-Futurists are wildly experimental, taking the elements of theatre and performance itself and isolating them, tinkering with them, or completely flipping them on their heads to create moments of unbridled creativity and artistry. In previous shows, this reviewer has been handed a dripping wet painting of a polaroid nude photo that an ensemble member painted moments before, witnessed a piece whose entire premise revolved around a shaken up beer can falling from the ceiling and exploding as it hit the floor, and been asked to lay flat on the floor to cover someone’s feet as they deliver a monologue about John Wayne Gacy. Those who prefer their theatre to be linear, run-of-the-mill, appropriate, Ibsenian slices of life, or who prefer to watch their theatre comfortably behind a fourth wall, should be so warned.
The Neo-Futurist Theater Reimagines Classic Formula
As with The Infinite Wrench, 60 Songs in 60 Minutes presents audience members with a list of the titles they will be performing, numbered and in order, though they are not performed by request. Once they start the clock hanging in the upper right corner of the stage, the show begins, and the titles are performed start to finish, all featuring music, in all meanings and forms. The titles range from cheekily humorous (“my birthday is actually in march”) to outright mysterious (“Somewhere on this planet, in this universe, in this timeline, there is a person thinking this very thought to themselves”), and none of the songs are what you would expect from the titles alone. The result is an engaging and urgent production, where the audience is kept guessing and on the edge of their seats.
Artists That Need to be Heard
If there is anything to be said about this production, it is that the performers are fiercely passionate about, and in love, with what they are doing, and the result was truly magical to this humble theatre-goer. The pieces are indeed short lived, ranging from a couple minutes to mere seconds, but all of them are original, and written by the performers themselves, so there’s a extra smidge of heart behind every melody. Amidst all of the holiday fare Chicago theatre has to offer, 60 Songs in 60 Minutes was just as lovely, and a welcome symphony of raw creation.