nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
August 13, 2011
Funny, diverting, and very, very Fringe: That’s Dystopia Gardens, subtitled “a sketch play about an unpleasant future.” Jerry Miller and Will Nunziata’s fast-moving tear through the world (perhaps) to be is occasionally low-brow, and sometimes loses its way, but it is always enjoyable. Two actors have written dozens of characters for themselves to play, and they have a ball—the show is a delightful summer treat.
Earth, it seems, has become One World, thanks to an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. The outrageously popular Ruler (Nunziata) has been declared Ruler for Life—but he demurs, wisely noting that term limits are good, new leaders bring new ideas, and so on. But his assistant (Miller) tells him that the people simply will not have anyone else in charge. The Ruler is persuaded to authorize a document that will allow himself to be cloned again and again and again, ad infinitum, and thus keep power not only for his lifetime, but in perpetuity. But it seems each generation of clone degrades a little bit, and so by the time his 30th clone is in charge, the world is in ruins. People live in dome cities that are overcrowded and rapidly deteriorating, weddings are determined by the DMV (Department of Marriage Vows), and actual sex is forbidden. When a young husband (Nunziata) is stopped for a random search that cannily satirizes the current situation at airports across the U.S., he is discovered to have had intercourse with his wife, and he is taken away to be put on a reality show in which ordinary citizens who are guilty of crimes must fight gladiatorial champions. (The nature of the battle is hilarious and unexpected.) And it seems the Ruler’s assistant has ventured out beyond the dome city, and is leading an underground rebellion. Chaos, as it were, ensues.
Miller, Nunziata and director Paul Stancato make an excellent team. The actors are nimble and have a great on-stage rapport. Dystopia Gardens moves like lightning, aided inexpressibly by the inclusion of fantastic video interstices that also feature Miller and Nunziata in a variety of roles (most humorously as a pair of newscasters)—these segments are among the most successful parts of the evening, so much credit is due to technical director Beowulf Jones and stage manager Christine Liz Pynn.
This is a terrific event, not exactly a play but certainly satisfying. Cheers to Dystopia Gardens—if you’re looking for a fresh FringeNYC experience, it’s at Dixon Place.