Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 5, 2009
Do the conveniences our machines create really make our lives easier? The creator of Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines, Rainpan 43, puts this question in perspective by creating machines that are way more complex than the tasks they are meant to perform. When seen in this light, our machines lose their mystique and authority and become ridiculous hindrances in our lives, and that makes one question why we are so obsessed with them. Rainpan 43 exposes the absurdity of it all in their postmodern spin on our obsession with technology and security.
You may remember the cartoonist Rube Goldberg or the kid's board game Mousetrap. Try to imagine one of Goldberg's complex contraptions designed to do a simple task like flip a light switch but multiplied by 100 and littered all over your studio apartment. There are so many little things that need to come together to make everything happen and most of them do but it's almost funnier when they don't. The creator/performers, Quinn Bauriedel, Geoff Sobelle, and Trey Lyford, use the malfunctions to their advantage. I, of course, wanted everything to work but I laughed, along with many others, when they didn't and that for me relaxed the atmosphere so I didn't worry if the next contraption was going to work or not because I knew it was going to be good either way. When I feel like that at a show I always have a good time!
The setup is three men living together in a small apartment. They each serve their purpose in keeping the group safe from outsiders—from the "they" out there to get you. There's the Chief Commander (Bauriedel) dressed in military dress pants and an undershirt. He sounds like Jimmy Stewart and has the swagger of John Wayne. There's Phineas (Sobelle) who speaks like a Shakespearean player and is dressed in a kilt and a leather flight hat with a speaker bouncing on a wire coming out of his ear. He hears things. Finally, you have Liam (Lyford) who wears a flight jacket and welder's goggles for which he makes a little robotic arm noise every time he flips the lens up or down. He's in charge of operations. Most of his dialogue is done into a little microphone and speaker attached to his jacket and it sounds like very official walkie-talkie chatter. In between the most ridiculously "convenient" machines serving them breakfast they react to various threats from the outside including the dog barking and a trout storm.
The show is action-driven but the dialogue is very strong. They speak to each other but each in their own special way making the dialogue disjointed but still discernable. There are also moments when they speak to the greater audience out there. There is a particularly good one that is an indictment of the media spreading fear that made me realize the show was saying more than I had thought up to that point. All the absurdity can be distracting but their theme of obsessive, paranoid behavior driven by fear and marketing pushes through it all. Their individual performances are brilliant but it as an ensemble that they shine. They are most hilarious off the cuff and their commitment to their characters' quirks and mannerisms never lets up.
Their director Aleksandra Wolska drives them at a maddening pace and the effect is thrilling. They sometimes talk over each other but that's due to the improvising. The set design (Hiroshi Iwasaki) is a great mix of low budget and high tech. Beds and bathrooms fold out from the walls and the couch flips into a kitchen table. Steven Dufala and Billy Blaise Dufala designed the machines. They are, to say the least, incredible and delightful all at once. They are not just clever engineering, they are bizarre works of found object art.In the end, I had a great time at this show. It's funny, it's fun to watch, and the performances are very strong. It's also bizarre and unpredictable but it's that sense of impulsiveness that will really draw you in and you'll feel close to the performers...like we're all in it together.