Most plays are basically the same. They have the same structure, the same kind of characters and plot, the same jokes and even the same endings.
Black, white and strange all over
Most plays are basically the same. They have the same structure, the same kind of characters and plot, the same jokes and even the same endings. They have a specific theme that is usually pretty hard to miss. They go about approaching it with varying levels of creativity, but the basics are not messed with. If you are sick of this kind of predictability and stuffiness, Imago Theater’s Double Feature of Serial Killer Parents and The Father Thing is definitely for you.
The newest production from the company that brought us Biglittlethings and FROGZ is different in more than the names and subject matter of its plays. The stage is divided into two sections. The background and sides of the left section are all black; the right section, all white. Audience members sit on the left side of the theater for the first play and the right side for the second. The actors in the black section are dressed in all black and the actors in the white section in all white.
The first play, Serial Killer Parents, starts off on the left stage as a kind of a magic show complete with appearing-disappearing acts and other illusions. We quickly find, however, that the magician and his female assistant are married. Their child has become a serial killer and is awaiting execution. The wife is more than a little resentful of her husband, since she is the better magician but has been confined to the role of assistant because of her gender. Eventually we find out that the child is not the only killer in the family.
The magic is quite good, but the intentionally failed or compromised illusions are the most fun. Constant references to the author and the audience are made, as well as statements like “What page of the script are we on now?” and “How many pages left?” The dialogue is very stylized, and at the same time captures the dynamics of bickering between long-married couples. Imago’s artistic directors Carol Riffle and Jerry Mouawad play the couple spot on, their first time on the Imago stage together since 1998.
The Father Thing tells the story of a family whose father has apparently been replaced by an alien wearing the dead father’s skin. There is quite a bit of comedy and suspense as the truly strange narrative makes its way forward. The characters are each distinctively and memorably acted, with a quite chilling performance by Bryce Flint-Somerville as the dad, formerly of the Blue Man Group.
While Mouawad wrote both works, The Father Thing is based on a Phillip K. Dick story of the same name. It is a longer play than Serial Killer Parents and is written as a screenplay complete with screen directions. A narrator relates action happening off-stage and camera movements. This means there is a lot of movement on and around the stage, but all at a quick enough pace.
The two plays are tied together with a couple of themes. One is gender, specifically the way modern society believes it has outgrown the need for the primal drives and aggressive instincts of men, leaving them to become less effective versions of women.
The stated theme in both plays is a confusing idea about the singularity that caused the big-bang. You see, in a way, we’re still inside that singularity, because the universe is still expanding. This theme is rather randomly inserted into both plays. It would have been better to stick to the unstated masculine obsolescence theme and throw out the big-bang ideas entirely.
Though the shows were definitely scripted, I wouldn’t be surprised if improv played a role in the writing process, since that kind of interpersonal energy is there between the cast members and in their movements. Standard improv is more entertaining than this, however, since it does not have any pretensions of the deep themes or thoughts. Still, there are very few places taking these kinds of risks and breaking down the barriers of conventional theater. If you want to see something that’s not like every other show out there, go.
Imago Theater’s Double Feature of Serial Killer Parents and The Father Thing is playing through Oct. 27 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 on Thursdays and $18-$22 on weekends.