By Walt McGough
Directed by Rebecca Willingham
Produced by Tympanic Theatre Company
At Profiles’ The Ally Stage, Chicago
Sci-fi dark comedy more confusing that dark comedy
Doing sci-fi dark comedies on stage is a daunting task, and Tympanic Theatre Company tried to make Paper City Phoenix work, but they were overwhelmed by the confusing script. There are too many strange and improbable plot twists, which included the main character climbing to the top of a cell tower to kill herself but being “saved” by being hit by lighting and becoming infused with infinite Internet trivia knowledge. There is a women obsessed by grief for her missing brother so she actually is printing all the content of the Internet. (That is like counting all the pebbles on a sand beach!) There is an anti-technology cult which dress in brown robes and live together like cloistered monks and two hyper city agents who spy on folks for unclear reasons. City residents get blown up by the Internet girl, yet one of the investigators becomes a sort-of robot internet zombie. I could go on with the elements that make absurdist work seem natural but I think you get the point.
With the players screaming and foul-mouthed dialogue, plus many black-outs for set changes and weird visuals and strobe lighting, the confusing plot just rambles on toward a sort of redemptive ending that finds the Internet girl being transformed back to a human after sacrificing her soul mate to save the world. Of course, by that time I had become anxious for this convoluted work to end after it self-destructed early on. The acting was amateurish and the production values were ahead of the script and the character development. With so many stage worthy plays available, I wonder why Tympanic Theatre would mount such a dud?
At Profiles’ The Ally Stage, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 929-329-2934, tickets $20, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, running time is 1hour, 55 minutes with intermission, through May 8, 2016