Neo-Futurists' ANALOG Is All About The Process
Reviewed by RUSSELL GOELTENBODT
The Neo-Futurists, creators of over 60 original full-length productions, are a collective of wildly productive writer/director/performers who create immediate, non-illusory, interactive performances.
The presentation of the Neo-futurists “Analog” drafts a map of where we go when we write. It describes the peculiar darkness the writer must inhabit to find the privacy to write, and after establishing one voice, culls others to turn that privacy inside out. The concept of all of this is interesting and creator Kurt Chiang is very captivating in his description of the process.
This exploration of “fate,” Kurt Chiang relives his self-prescribed task of transcribing, by hand, the entirety of the 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. Chiang explains the intricate details of the transcription—how long it took, where he performed the task, what color pen he used, the notebooks he wrote in.
However, in experiencing this production, the focus is more directed toward Kurt Chiang’s cancer recovery journey, rather than his interpretation and adaption of “The Lord of the Flies”. Kurt’s assignment is mental therapy in putting his life together to move on with his life after his Non-Hodgkin’s disease diagnosis and cure. Kurt Chiang leads the audience into his thought process, first using text, and then through a space transformed to display the inside of his brain. The audience is placed physically beside his thought. He first had to deal with the diagnosis. Then after being told he had survived cancer, he had to convince himself that he was actually cured. This healing process brought Kurt through many series of tests and many more years of healing.
Throughout Analog, Kurt Chiang discusses his task of understanding “The Lord of the Flies”, but then admits that he had never read it. Therefore, it becomes puzzling as to why Kurt would pursue this task? He mentions and states, Part of the inspiration for transcribing Lord of the Flies came from seeing an art exhibit the same year Kurt was accepted into the Neo-Futurist ensemble. The exhibit was a collection of minimalist and conceptual artists. The content of The Lord of The Flies” is about a group of boys who are stranded on an island who searched for ways to escape. My interpretation for the relevance of the production is the comparison of Kurt Chiang’s focus in dealing with his cancer recovery in knowing he is safe from the island of cancer, after escaping from it through his healing journey.
I will have to say a large portion of “Analog” is very confusing. But, ultimately Kurt Chiang’s performance is very captivating and interesting. Also, I have to admit that it took me most of the performance to wrap my arms around the relevance of this production. Kurt’s performance definitely convinced me by its conclusion.
Kurt Chiang’s interaction with some of the ensemble added to my confusion. The ensemble, which included Kurt’s wife Jessica Ann, Lizi Breit, Trevor Dawkins, Tim Reid, and Hank Vogler attempted to relate how they viewed Kurt’s thought process. They contributed in their own voices, supporting or rejecting the thoughts that Chiang has laid out. However, many of the actors were not necessary to convey this thought process. Only a few of these actors would have emphasized Kurt Chiang’s thoughts. The entire ensemble was not necessary and much of their dialog was irrelevant. However, Kurt’s wife, Jessica Ann, and friend Trevor Hawkins gave the most realistic, compelling and emotional performances which accented Kurt’s performance and thought process.
Tif Harrison, who is the director of Analog, joined The Neo-Futurists ensemble in 2012. Even though, the concept of Analog was conveyed through Kurt Chiang’s performance, it is unfortunate that it took me until the end of the performance for me to understand Anolog’s relevance. Tif Harrison’s direction of this play is not clear, and contributed to my confusion. This non-clarity included the interruption of dialogue between the ensemble and Kurt Chiang, and the constant distraction of moving desks and chairs when they could have been stationary. This set movement was not necessary to the production and it should have been kept to a minimum.
I observed during the performance of Analog, that much of the twenty-something audience seemed more captivated then confused with this production.
This leads me to believe that possibly a middle-aged person, such as me, is not seeing this play in the same way. A 40-50 year old person may not have the same appreciation as a twenty something college student or graduate. Additionally, being that this is my first Neo-futurist production, I believe that the productions are constructed to be more expressive and perceived to be more avant-garde in nature than traditional theater. Therefore, I may not appreciate the production in the same way as the younger audience.
While this show is theatrical and interactive, I have concluded that Analog is conceptual to the individual. Additionally, I believe that the direction and writing need to be clearer. Kurt Chiang’s journey is interesting and satisfying. I am happy in knowing that Kurt Chiang is once again a healthy young man who is free from illness and is free to pursue his dreams through his acting and writing. Even though, this play may not be for the middle-aged, it may be satisfying for the young who are searching for answers to their own lives.
Analog plays through April 6, 2013 at Neo-Futurists, 5153 N. Ashland, Chicago. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org or call the box office at 773-275-5255. For calendar information visit www.TheatreinChicago.com