The Acme Corporation has brought you an existential mind-fuck of a show, “Follow No Strangers to the Fun Places.” It is an odd romp through psychological musings, bit parts of scenes, and two actors laying out their relationship issues via vignettes. If you are up for a challenge and a very different kind of evening, this is your cup of tea.
Even on their own website, they cannot muster an adequate description of the show. In the style of the show- this is the space where a summary would go. I would tell you what the show is about in a nutshell. But this is almost impossible to do. Here’s my best attempt- There are two actors, Christy Kato Czajkowski as Thing 1, and Kaya Vision as Thing 2. They appear to be arguing over the play they are working on, the foundations of it, what it means, and how to bring it to fruition. As they argue and meander, they are constantly interrupted by what I can only assume is their own disjointed scenes that are part of a show that never actually happens. Some of the distractions are funny, some are just distracting, and some are strange, such as puppets arguing in what I think was German. I feel like I need to be infinitely smarter to know what is going on. When the show was over I was not sure if I needed a shot or a nap or something more potent.
As you enter the space it takes a minute to understand what you are looking at. The seats are arranged in twos with a small television on a stand in between them. Each seat has a pair of headphones laying on them and two large signs are over the playing space lit green and red for when to put on the headphones and when to take them off. There are several toasters in a row and some dead bees hanging from the ceiling. The stage is littered with script pages and it looks kind of like a tornado hit a rehearsal. If we are transported, this isn’t Kansas.
As the play begins, audience members are instructed to place on their headphones. The recording does all of the opening curtain speech instructions and then launches into a metaphysical romp about why you are listening to this, and what other people’s headphones are saying. Is it all the same? By the chuckles, I assume it is. One of the random things it says is a list of words- I personally like ambulatory. It is a word not used often enough. Although I have to point out that at one point in the show, it is obvious the headphones are giving slightly different instructions to the left and right seats. Paranoia instilled- check.
The first scene is three women smoking and a man entering covered in blood. Your headphones are still on. They are all wired with mics and are speaking into your headphones along with an under-reel of narrative that deconstructs what is happening on stage. It is something like watching the film analysis when you haven’t seen the film first. It is hard to analyze it in a review when the headset does all the analyzing for you. I found it distracting (which is the point) and sometimes pedantic to tell me and lead me into what to think when I’d like to draw my own conclusions. Is this done as a deconstructive method? Is this because the common theater-goer isn’t smart enough to make these assumptions themselves? Am I being led and distracted from something else going on? My brain when into overdrive and tried to separate from the droning narrative.
The main event is Thing 1 and Thing 2, played by Christy Kato Czajkowski and Kaya Vision. At one point though Kaya quits or is kind of fired by the man he is supposed to be representing, Stephen Nunns. Mostly though these two actors have good chemistry and it is more than believable that I am watching a relationship strain and disintegrate before my very eyes. Occasionally the emotions run a bit off rail, and you are forced to remember they aren’t dating, they are actors and this is a show.
Some of the odder sketches include three people speaking rapidly in monotone and wearing all black behind pieces of fencing on the upper level. I think that one was “show.” It was hard to hear and follow what was going on, and Kaya was clicking the lights with audible “clicks” every few seconds. The other strange short piece, aside from the sock marionettes, is a musical selection of robotic moving players singing in the round and all wearing suspenders.
All in all, it was a disorienting evening of comedy, over-arched drama, and strange dissection of theater making and the people involved. If you are looking for something different, something new, something a bit off the track of normal, then this is your jam.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? This is not a typical evening of theater. If you are up for new experiences and not always knowing what is going on, but delving enjoyment from it none the less, than by all means buy tickets. If you like your theater old-school and linear, then this is not for you. Check out the analysis of the process of making theater happen, especially if you’ve never been on this journey before- it is a tedious one. (I)
Running time 68 minutes with no intermission. Runs through May 19th at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1900 St. Paul Street. Photo Credit: Karen Houppert.