I had never heard of neo-futurism before seeing Theatre Intime’s production of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” I probably never would have heard of it and I probably will never hear of it again. From what I gather neo-futurists are an obscure group of writers, directors and actors who are committed to strengthening the bond between performer and audience by creating plays that are as sincere and genuine as possible. In order to do this, the neo-futurists employ tactics that include adding random and unpredictable events to performances. This, as they claim, removes “the expected and permanent” aspect of stage theatre by allowing performances to feel like an extension of everyday living. The Princeton production of this neo-futurist production manages, for the most part, to embody the spirit of neo-futurist philosophy. It’s well done. It’s playing again this weekend. You should go and see it.
“Too Much Light” begins when you try to buy your ticket: you’re confronted with the option of paying standard price for a ticket or rolling a die to determine your ticket price. “Ah ha,” you say to yourself with a smug look, “this must be part of that neo-futurist nonsense I read about.” As you’re still smirking at your own cleverness, an actor from the play walks up and asks your name, permanent marker and name-tag in hand. You give them your name and, to your utter astonishment, you have been re-christened “Smelly” or “Door Frame” or something along those lines. You enter the theatre anyway, perhaps slightly unnerved, excited or simply relieved.
The first thing you might notice is the noise, general chaos and excessive amount of alcohol consumption surrounding you. You sink into your seat and see that on the stage there is a clothesline with the numbers 1-30 hanging on it. The play begins and two emcees, Tyler Crosby ’09 and Ashley Alexander ’09, come on stage to pantomime warped flight instructions. It’s interactive. You awkwardly hold the hand of the faculty member next to you. You learn –perhaps unnecessarily – that drinking is encouraged during the show.
Suddenly the cast emerges from the audience and the show begins. The way it works, as you discover, is that the audience shouts out numbers and, after the emcees pick a number from the clothesline, the actors run out and perform the corresponding play. You might suspect that all the random aspects of the play, such as audience participation and skit choice, are actually contrived and orchestrated, but, as you’re later pleased to find, they’re actually not. Over the next 80 minutes, you find yourself experiencing a vast array of emotions and thoughts, which might include but are not limited to: tickled, bewildered, impressed, entertained, alarmed, sad, inspired, enlightened, offended, uncomfortable, moved, indifferent or affirmed. You can’t help but be impressed by the raw energy of the show and the alertness of the cast in relation to each other, their surroundings and the audience. You find it hard to be bored since approximately every two minutes promises a new set of characters, a new plot, a new tone and new possibilities of interaction. You might get screamed at, you might have to stand up in the audience and do Kegels, you might get naked on stage or you might have to sit in complete darkness and let people whisper in your ears. The show ends all too quickly.