Entertainment has gotten a lot more creative since Mickey Rooney chirped to Judy Garland: “Hey! Let’s put on a show!” Elemental Theatre’s Dave Rabinow and four other local playwright friends got together in one of their living rooms and have come up with pent•a•go•go: five stories to every side (through January 14). Their barn is Perishable Theatre, and their five short plays range from good to fantastic, literally and figuratively.
WHO WANTS TO HEAR “KRYPTONITE”? Superman and Eve [yeah, that Eve] are the last people on Earth in Elemental Theatre’s Regenesis.
Although there is considerable talent on display here, by the actors as well as directors and writers, the coolest ingredient is pure chance. The idea was to write five plays that contain nine common elements. The categories were physical objects, events, and dramatic structures. They compiled lists of each and tossed slips of paper into three hats from which the restrictions/challenges were picked.
Robert Frost said that writing poems without rhymes is like playing tennis without a net. Working within limits here — each play integrally including a broken toy, a crack in the sidewalk, a fall, an event out of time, etc. — largely redirected creative concerns from what to how to, which apparently was a liberating experience.
The stories range from a consumerism cautionary tale through a dark sibling conflict to a bittersweet post-apocalyptic scenario. Often enough, the nine arbitrary elements come up not merely as decorations or hurdles but instead turn these tales in interesting directions.
The closing play impressed and delighted me the most. Written and directed by Rabinow, Regenesis is not your father’s dystopian fever dream and,, despite its finding humor in a post-nuclear holocaust setting, the half-hour journey is illuminating rather than trivial. It starts back in the Garden of Eden, when the threat of a Big Crunch had to do with a certain fruit rather than the end game of the Big Bang. Adam (Alexander Platt) tries to stop Eve (D’arcy Dersham), but she is a headstrong girl. Soon Eve sees no more of him than of God, wandering the world seemingly immortal, not aging, avoiding controversy (“Burn me at the stake once, shame on you”), until poison mushroom clouds and radiation leave her the last person in the world — besides Superman (Chris Rosenquest).
Eve is still vexed at having been blamed for all the evils of mankind, but Superman and his silly uniform are quite diverting. Rosenquest has him enunciate in a slightly stilted manner, as befits foreign royalty, and convey endearing bafflement. Deprived of sunlight, the source of his strength, Superman glories in scratching the bottom of his foot, his first itch, and is terrified at a hunger that feels just like kryptonite. He sings a droll ballad (quite well) about their predicament. Dersham provides bemused background to all of this but also you’d hope for in the last woman on earth. Rabinow shapes a myth that Joseph Campbell would be proud of, and the redemptive anti-patriarchal ending is an earned joy.