JOKES AND THEIR RELATION TO THE UNCONSCIOUS
nytheatre.com review by David Johnston
Seven years ago, friends in Chicago took me to see Too Much Light
Makes the Baby Go Blind. It was a group called the Neo-Futurists,
and I had never seen anyone do quite what they did. Pizzas were ordered.
Nametags were assigned. A dark room clock on the wall said when the show
stopped. But underneath the carefully planned chaos was a strict
artistic mission that embraced how much damn fun theatre could be. Plus,
they were gifted actors and writers.
August 15, 2003
Since then, I’ve seen the New York version of T.M.L.M.T.B.G.B., their adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial and their hilarious riff on Samuel Beckett, The Complete Works of Samuel Beckett…. Their Kafka adaptation managed to pull off being funny and scary, using only a lot of talent and a few doors on casters. The Beckett parody was both respectful homage and savage demolition.
Their newest FringeNYC entry, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, is exactly what the title says—an analysis of funny. And their agenda—and the Neo-Futurists always have one, even if they change their mind—is to dissect comedy to the point that it is not funny.
Jokes is, of course, very funny, and peppered throughout with their signature non-sequiturs ("Mark Twain? Devoured by squirrels."). Jokes combines Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, Milton Berle, audience participation, Down’s syndrome, fart jokes, and psychodrama, delivered by its three perpetrators, Greg Allen, Heather Riordan, and Andy Bayiates.
In all honesty, I didn’t feel that Jokes was among their best efforts and I’m not sure why. Parts lagged, not a common feature of their work. Jokes lacks the late-night anarchism of Too Much Light and the guts and theatricality of K. But what I admire about the Neo-Futurists—and why you should get to know them—is that they are a collective of writers and performers interested in building a significant body of work. And they’re doing it. The joy is seeing each new show in that context. If you don’t get to know the Neo-Futurists, you are just depriving yourself.