Presented by Soho Rep and Ars Nova
By Marcina Zaccaria
César Alvarez brings intelligence and heart to Julian Munro, a Civil War solider in Futurity. Alvarez teams with Sammy Tunis, who plays Ada Lovelace, to seek an escape to a powerful war machine.
Longing for singularity and questioning whether war is an act of extraordinary creativity, the stage is set for a dialectical argument that is evocative in the East Village, but also makes sense near Harvard. It’s a longer statement crafted by César Alvarez, (who also wrote the book), but the twangy Civil War inspired march music delivers some fresh sounds by Alvarez and the Lisps, who have released four albums. Lovelace is supposed to be Lord Byron’s daughter in this anti-war treatise, and Futurity doesn’t lose sight of its new romanticism.
Direction by Sarah Benson was nothing short of visionary. Having previously directed Futurity at A.R.T., she offers a fresh glimpse at this text about a Civil War hero and a mathematical genius. Benson is casting savvy. Karen Kandel, as the General, is a strong anchor with a booming alto voice. Eric Farber, who is credited as the Soldier, Percussionist, and Contraption Designer, holds a phenomenal presence onstage, keeping the beat of their revolution stylish and interactive. As a member of The Lisps and a Kinetic Sculpture Designer, he defines performance innovation, making Futurity a must-watch for those yearning for ingenuity.
In a world that strives toward utopia, there are followers and leaders, and those at the helm don’t want to negate the severity and seriousness of war. Execution of the Fight Choreography (created by J. David Brimmer) or the Choreography (provided by David Neumann, Artistic Director of Advanced Beginner Group) sometimes misses the precision. However, the appreciation for period movement, combined with 1960s protest, is laudable.
In the second act, when the large, percussive machine is revealed, it is one of the more stunning displays seen at The Connelly Theater, an otherwise quaint location for this show. Staging involves soldiers in every part of the machine, and Lighting Design by Yi Zhao really lets the darker tones shine through. The audience is asked to choose whether to follow the story about failings “by a fraction” or just be blown away by the contraption design, with people as the cogs in the machine.
Translating Julian and Ada’s frustration about war becomes Futurity’s victory. Though envisioned as a war and peace argument, Futurity often wins solely on the music. The pounding drums, sailing, choral melodies, and cleverly executed washboard percussion prove to be inventive and memorable.
Futurity is playing at The Connelly Theater, 220 E. 4th St. until November 15.
At the Saturday, October 17 showing of Futurity, International Relations Scholar Joshua S. Goldstein was present to discuss the nature of peacekeeping and the atrocities of war. In an illuminating discussion that included location, scope, and impact of several wars over the years, Goldstein explained how the United Nations and The League of Nations have taken firm, preventative action against war making in the future.
Photos: Ben Arons