The world premiere of “Launch Day” sets a steady course

In an effort to find out if future humanity remains human at heart, despite AI, genetic engineering, increasing Earth degradation and the accompanying angst, boredom and despair, what such things keep spiraling out of control, “Launch Day (Love Stories from the Year 2108)” can claim mission accomplished.

A realistic, robotic, sci-fi comedy prosthetic arm, of course, has to develop its own will and start wagging the dog. It points to deeper desires, much like a breathalyzer-like gadget that reveals layered emotions beneath protective outer skins, lab-made or not. Even if the arm becomes western masochistic, it has an endgame. That’s handy, because many of the characters in Michael Higgins’ comedy, which had its world premiere at Theater Tuscaloosa, are, as the former rock band sang, “practiced in the art of deception.”

Given its futuristic setting, in 86 years the temptation must have been strong to put on bells and whistles, but the Tuscaloosa Theater team, including director Tina Turley, set designers Jameson Sanford, lighting designer Lyndell McDonald’s and sound and prop designer Charles Prosser, took another twist. Accessories and furniture are transparent, so only transparent refraction reveals objectives.

After:Tuscaloosa Theater Launches World Premiere of Upcoming Play ‘Launch Day’

As a metaphor, it’s not a stump. First, the forward-looking films of at least “Minority Report” used the idea of ​​transparent display screens, largely for a cool factor, but also for the practical dramatic effect of letting an actor showing off, in what is usually not an action scene. : using a computer, something most of us do quietly, without dramatically wiping our arms, every day.

Second, Higgins’ piece shines a light on people who use weapons and gadgets, worker bees working under an AI boss, tempted to crank out a $400 million brain, and hopeful exploratory thinking. behind the zany evolutionary manipulations: cheetah-nest, koala-rabbit, tiger-hammer and cucumber-banana. Flashy technology could both literally and figuratively obscure the point.

But it could benefit from old-school stage magic: smoke and mirrors, platforms or even turntables could soften some not-so-elegant transitions, which now just fade away. Maybe for a future show, the rear projections could blow up sci-fi eye candy. For now, the public will have to be imaginative.

That’s kind of the point of the new plays, though: audiences need to open up to ideas that aren’t already locked away in their pleasure centers and take an uncharted journey.

It’s not the kind of jargon-laden sci-fi that requires background reading. “Launch Day” begins with classic friction: girl meets boy, boy feels inadequate and runs off to war; the girl decides to leave the planet, the guy gets a robotic arm and …. OK, no manual, but the dilemmas remain recognizable. The working people envy the rich and powerful, many of whom may soon escape from a planet they destroyed through unchecked greed. People still don’t do math, and therefore make weak decisions based on inadequate information, both in love and in lotteries.

Mileidy Crespo-Jones plays Taz, a helpful bartender in

The jokes are warm, largely based on human weaknesses. When they’re a bit more oblique, they’re not exactly obscure, like in a “Star Trek” gag about destroying a sentient machine by presenting it with illogical logic, aka the Kirk-Vger Manuever. At times, the piece connects with Philip K. Dick’s reflections on consciousness and reality, and how to explain what existed before the Big Bang – where and when, exactly, did potentiality rest, before space and time? − but it is always translated by and through people.

Turley assembled a team of game actors, both experienced and less experienced, dressed by costume designer Jeanette Waterman to dazzle the shunned see-through backdrop. Margaret Carr’s platinum bob showcases a miniskirt over an orange jumpsuit whose lumpy textures suggest it’s been peeled from real oranges. Practical kilts and jumpsuits are lined with security tape, a law officer stands sleek in stormtrooper-meets-Tron black, and an iridescent mini-kimono over leopard-skin tights somehow rocks. Elsewhere, rest textures so bright they seem to possess depths, and everywhere funky chunky-soled shoes and boots look like they’re pulled straight from a Frank Miller graphic novel.

Carr, as Jada, and Gabriel Carden, as newly armed ex Zegg, anchor with an interstitial story of nostalgia, and they’re a fit and capable couple to keep the show centered. In scene seven, “Potentialities, Kazarious “Biscuit” Brown (Brylo) and Mileidy Crespo-Jones (Taz) crackle in what is arguably the second most realized episode, showing a comedic wink and energy that s elevate from a more melancholy midfield, segueing the show well into its penultimate scene of hybrid animal matter, in which Steven Yates’ stage command as scientist Grevin bounces nicely off Hallie Grace’s charmingly squirrely Brittley. Hammer.

Each of the actors – Amaria Jackson with Ebony Wesley, Jessica Briana Kelly with DeAnthony Mays, Sam Hodo with Brandy Johnson – pair well in storylines that range from almost eerily quiet to comically wacky.

Jada (Margaret Carr) and Zegg (Gabriel Carden) argue over the fate of the planet in

Despite its brevity, “Launch Day” could use a little more mayhem, and despite the low-fi aesthetic, whether it’s tech or training boosters: Some actors didn’t project. Sometimes they were at conversational volume, a tactic you might get by in an intimate audience, but it won’t work in a proscenium where the seats move back 17 rows, out of a 430-seat hall.

Higgins’ comedy works almost like an amalgamation of the fears and wonders of Ray Bradbury: the master, especially in the tales collected under the title “The Martian Chronicles”, felt apprehensive about the future, while, as in “Dandelion Wine”, he was ecstatic about the calm of the past, the richness of a summer night where only cicadas and children were buzzing.

But he also wrote ‘The Toynbee Convector’, about a man who claims to have invented time travel, coming back from 100 years to tell the story of the utopia we all built. So people get to work creating that golden future. The old man lied, but the mission succeeded: it brought back hope.

“Launch Day” Dates and Tickets

Performances continue at the Bean-Brown Theater, Shelton State Community College, with matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and evening performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets usually cost $19; $17 for seniors, military, and Shelton State employees; $14 for students. www.theatretusc.com/launch-day.

Due to the adult subject matter and content, the show is recommended for ages 13 and up. Each performance will last approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.

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