Friday, November 21, 2008

8 Little Antichrists

For my review of Angel Eaters, click here.

For my review of Rattlers, click here.

Where Johnna Adams was channeling Williams and Lovecraft with Angel Eaters and Rattlers, for 8 Little Antichrists, the final play in her Angel Eaters trilogy, she and director Kelly O'Donnell appear to be channeling Max Headroom and Demolition Man (yes, you read that correctly). It's an odd - yet clearly deliberate - way to conclude the series, yet still makes for an enjoyable night of theatre.

8 Little Antichrists is the most ambitious and sprawling of the three plays. It's also the most plot-driven and, unfortunately, weakest. This installment takes place in what used to be Los Angeles in the year 2028. The characters live in a dystopia where the Disney Corporation runs jails and Sony clones workers. Osley's (from Rattlers) grandchildren, Jeremy (Zack Robidas) and Melanie (Rebecca McHugh), are trying to stop the impending apocalypse and save the world from the antichrists that have been prophesized to being born. In her quest to end the apocalypse, Melanie attempts to obtain a holy relic from two escaped convicts, Thump (Jake Alexander) and Fibber (Joe Mathers), who have invented a very silly slang as an alternative to swearing (pottymouth language in Disney prison results in painful electrical shocks delivered by ankle bracelets).

In Angel Eaters, we had the terrifying Azazyel as the embodiment of evil. In 8 Little Antichrists, the fallen angels Sem and Zaz (Felicia Hudson and Elise Link, respectively) who kidnap Jeremy and force him to use his abilities to speed up the apocalypse sport stylish black pantsuits and hip sunglasses.

Meanwhile, Claudia (Candice Holdorf), a triplet (or "trip") is trying to find out who killed her trip sister and left her body in a garbage bin. She confronts Mama (Nora Hummel), a "breeder" that bore Claudia who lays in a giant amniotic sac birthing multiple clones with the aid of fertility drugs, to get answers and later meets Ezekiel (August Schulenburg), a fallen angel that may be having seconds thoughts about triggering the end of the world and who desperately wants to end his life. Bummer for him that he's immortal.

8 Little Antichrists uses almost every sci-fi trope in the book, from the ubiquitous vision of Los Angeles as a futuristic hell on earth to cloning factories to corporate-sponsored prisons (convicts have the choice of going to the Disney prison or the McDonalds prison) to dystopic legal systems. That cute little devil puppets portray the eponymous antichrists should indicate that the play's creators have their tongues firmly in their cheeks.

Adams herself has admitted that she wanted to take the trilogy into a very different direction with the final installment. I just can't for the life of me figure out why. It's clearly not from a lack of nerve, material, or inspiration. Hey, maybe there's no way to portray the apocalypse without it being a little silly.

In fact, taking some fun cues from the previous plays (in particular, I loved Ezekiel showing his trophy horns in a suitcase labeled "Joann" as well as the reference to a golden ring with two familiar names inscribed on it), 8 Little Antichrists is at its strongest when it acknowledges its roots. It's very much a continuation of what's happened before and stays faithful to the mythology that's been established with the first two plays. It just would have made more sense if it had the same feel of what came before it, or if Angel Eaters and Rattlers were equally disparate from each other in tone, mood and style.

Make no mistake: I enjoyed the hell out of 8 Little Antichrists. It's an incredibly fun sci-fi noir comedy that provides a lot of meat for the audience to chew on like Angel Eaters and Rattlers. And I really should mention that Schulenburg is absolutely hilarious as the pathetic Ezekiel. Virtually every line that came out of his mouth had me cackling.

As a standalone piece, I think audiences will get an incredible kick out of it, as it's a great deal of fun. As the conclusion to a trilogy, I suspect some audience members may wind up scratching their heads.

Head-scratching aside, Adams, with the help of the Flux Theatre Ensemble, has created a brilliant and admirably ambitious cycle of plays that ponder questions of spirituality, morality, and the absurd and often destructive ways in which people deal with loss and death. This has been a real thrill to witness.

8 Little Antichrists is playing in rep with Angel Eaters and Rattlers at the Wings Theatre until November 22. Tickets are $18 per show, or $40 for the three-show combo. For tickets click here.

Taping bacon to his chest,

James "Lion Food" Comtois

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