“Playtest” Electrifies BLAST Festival, at Shotgun Players, Berkeley

“Playtest” Electrifies BLAST Festival, at Shotgun Players, Berkeley

S.F. Neo-Futurists BLAST 30 Plays in One Hour!

by Buzz Goldberg

I’m still buzzing about the San Francisco Neo-Futurists’ show at Shotgun Players, part of Shotgun’s three-week long Blast Theater Festival (#Blastival for you tweeters). The Neo-Futurists’ show is electric, magnetic, and highly energetic—not to mention extremely inventive and highly entertaining. I could go on.

The Neo-Futurists have been a fixture in Chicago’s theater scene for many years, and spawned sister troupes in New York City and San Francisco. Their trademark is performing short, original plays, on demand.

And when I say short, I mean short. Like two minutes or less. That’s pretty short. But as viewers of these mini-plays attest, size isn’t everything. These original pieces pack a punch, ranging in subject matter from pop culture to politics to personal revelations.

A cross between sketch comedy, improv, and performance art, the evening’s pieces are laugh-out-loud FUN. Some are surprisingly moving, strange, and striking. In one hour, they squeeze in dance numbers, personal confessions, nudity, and alcoholic beverages. As advertised, Neo-Futurist “Playtest” is for mature audiences.

The show is made up of 30 two-minute plays (in fact, some are shorter and some longer). Audience members receive a menu of the 30 numbered offerings, and 30 pieces of paper explaining the 30 works. The lively, bouncy troupe hangs the numbers from a clothesline strung across the stage. The show is one hour long, set to a timer, and there’s no guarantee that all 30 plays will be performed on any given night. It’s a Blast! at Shotgun’s Blastival.

The plays are performed in random order, when the audience, on cue, shouts their selected numbers for the scenes they want to see. Cast members leap for the number they first hear. Titles on the menu of the 30 plays include: “Surveying Stereotypes on the Sexuality Spectrum”; “An intimate moment at a strip club”; “How to be divastating” (that’s not a misspelling in Neo-F-land); and “Please say yes to this question.”

The young and versatile cast pulls off this eclectic menu of plays with a no-holds-barred approach that serves the material well. In “The Lengths I’ll Go to Avoid Ugly Racial Stereotypes,” an Asian cast member painstakingly backs his wheelchair into an open spot in a row of chairs. In “The Future is Present,” a psychic uses fortune cookies to tell her clients’ futures. And more outrages!

“Playtest” makes an unusual show—not to be missed. You have already missed them at Shotgun’s BLAST Festival, but don’t despair. They perform Friday and Saturday nights, 50 weekends a year, at San Francisco’s SAFEhouse for the Arts (1200 Market Street). See them for yourself and enjoy a rollicking good time.

“Playtest” by the San Francisco Neo-Futurists at BLAST Festival, Shotgun Players, Berkeley, #Blastival. The Blast Theater Festival runs February 3-26, 2017.  Info: shotgunplayers.org

S.F. Neo-Futurists: Jessie Alsop, Willie Caldwell, Amy Langer, Andie Patterson, Siyu Song,  Dylan Waite, and Ryan Patrick Welsh.  Info:sfneofuturists.com



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