Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, the Chicago cult hit that has also established itself as a downtown presence in New York, will be busier than ever in May, as its members offer special productions alongside their ongoing show, which runs Fridays and Saturdays at midnight. Billed as the "Neo-Futurist Trifocal Festival Extravaganza!," all events take place at Nada, the group's Manhattan venue on Ludlow Street.
Founded by Greg Allen in December 1988, the Neo-Futurist troupe mixes and matches forms ranging from the avant-garde, sketch comedy, poetry, one-act plays, monologues and agit-prop. The Neo-Futurists' show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, could almost be considered a play slam. At each performance, the troupe performs 30 plays in 60 minutes. Not surprisingly, plays can range from less than ten seconds to a maximum length of about five minutes. An on-stage timer keeps everyone apprised of the time left in the evening.
Other fun, audience-friendly elements of the show include the entrance and admission: audience members pay $4 and then roll a one-sided die to determine the ticket price. In other words, a ticket is no less than $5 but no more than $10.
Plays are not done in a particular order. Papers with the numbers 1-30 are strung along a clothesline above the actors' heads. As soon as one play ends, the menu-holding audience members shout out numbers of the play they want to see next. The first number grabbed off the line becomes the next play.
Also on tap for the troupe is Jobey And Katherine, a "dark, allegorical comedy set in a cannery town," where citizens worship God by being sybarites. Greg Kotis, a Neo-Futurist since 1991, wrote the piece, which stars his wife Ayun Halliday (a founding troupe member), Bill Coelius and Sven "The Lucky Swede" Holmberg as an unlucky mailman. The show runs May 1-May 18. Kotis told Playbill On-Line Jobey, about a man coming back to reclaim his love, has "as traditional structure as I could create -- three characters, one set. We're billing it as a kind of a comedy, but a lot of it is very dark, and the text deconstructs itself as it happens."
The playwright will be battling a bronchial infection as he sits through the opening night, May 1, but audience members will be most surprised to see wife Halliday performing in this very physical play; the actress is more than seven months pregnant. "We went to our first birthing class the other night. The monitor asked about everyone's activities, and one woman said, `Well, I get a pain in my abdomen if I eat this...' Then I said, `Well, I'm in this play, and I get thrown against the wall, I get shot...' The good thing about the stage combat is the guy whipping me around is the one who isn't afraid to hurt me. He knows what he's doing. Besides, I've been doing Too Much Light all these months, so this feels par for the course." Lesbian performance artist Anita Loomis will also take the Nada stage for "Hot Box: performance (S)excerpts, May 1-May 17. A longtime Chicago Neo-Futurist before moving to the West Coast, Loomis has adapted her solo pieces done at Off-Off-Broadway's Dixon Place in 1996 for this engagement. Subtitled "erotic fictions," the show's ten individually titled monologues are often addressed directly to the audience. Loomis will also join the New York cast of TMLMTBGB for the current festival. Since she'll be teaching acting at Barnard College after June, she may join the New York cast of Too Much Light a few months after that.
As for the regular Too Much Light show, catch it now, before the troupe start their summer vacation, June 7. Sometime between now and then, the New York City contingent will unveil its 500th play. Current writer/performers are Ayun Halliday, Greg Kotis, Rachelle Anthes, Bill Coelius, and Spencer Kayden. Robert Neill is on vacation until fall, with Anita Loomis sitting in for him.
The show celebrated its eighth anniversary at Chicago's NeoFuturarium on North Ashland in December. A book of 100 Neo-Futurist plays from Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind is available from Chicago Plays, Inc.
For information on Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind and other Neo-Futurist shows, call their New York hotline at (212) 330-8087 or their Chicago hotline at (773) 275-5255.
-- By David Lefkowitz