Review “Saturn Returns” (The Neo-Futurists): Intellectual Lampoon

Thursday, October 20, 2016 Permalink

neofuturistssaturnreturns4The Neo-Futurists present the World Premiere of SATURN RETURNS.

Tif Harrison sets out to prove the astrological correlation of living 29 years and Saturn’s solar orbit of 29 years. She confidently rolls out her theory in a classroom setting. Harrison reveals her own sequential loss at 29: mom moves, dad dies, partner leaves.  She then draws parallels between her experience and the ensemble (Kurt Chiang, Tif Harrison, Lily Mooney, Kirsten Riiber, Andrew Tham). Harrison is absurdly convincing as she fast talks the similarities of their experiences.  Cancer is a disconcerting common thread.  Break-ups is another mutual tie at or around age 29.  Then, she goes off the rails in absurdity. Harrison flimsily tries to force a connection between bed bugs, a moth and scabies.

neofuturistssaturnreturns1This show is innovative performance art. Parallels between lives are revealed through bell-ringing.  The connectivity of life is illustrated by repetitive movement. Intimacies are disclosed with poetic verse accompanied by vivid projections. Failure to reveal truth is rewarded with a glass of water in the face.  This show is personal to Harrison and all the ensemble. They challenge each other to disclose, confront and move on.  Not only is the camaraderie apparent, the trust and love is also obvious.  Even if they don’t buy into Harrison’s theory, they buy into her. At one point, an ensemble member reminds Harrison that they’ve been working together on her theory and this show for two years.

neofuturistssaturnreturns3Director Jen Ellison orchestrates this in somber playfulness.  Harrison reflects on her father’s death as someone continues to ask her if she wants to talk to the parrot.  The show is sequential bits twisted in seriousness and whimsy.  Although most components connect together, a few schticks appear random and add length without depth.  When Chiang interacts with an audience member, his improv feat is impressive but oddly placed.  In other places, the repetition turns rambling. As it goes on, it loses some of its original humanity and starts to feel mechanical.  It feels like the tightly-knit crew have trouble editing each other.  And that softens the impact of Harrison’s emotional crescendo.       

This show has a very clever premise. It’s especially geared toward the twenty and thirtysomethings. This intellectual lampoon asks the ultimate question ‘can you learn to believe?’  That thought-provoking question continues to keep rolling around in my head.  YES! maybe?   

Running:  One hundred and five minutes with no intermission

At The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland

Created by Tif Harrison

Written and Performed by Kurt Chiang, Tif Harrison, Lily Mooney, Kirsten Riiber, Andrew Tham

Directed by Jen Ellison

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Thru November 19th

Buy Tickets at www.neofuturists.org

All photos by  Joe Mazza at Brave Lux

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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