Sunday, November 07, 2010


Theater Ninjas' INOCULATIONS challenges the senses

As I was driving home from Theatre Ninja's confounding production of INOCULATIONS, the Terminal Tower loomed ahead. It was lighted in bright purple, the color representing Alzheimer's Awareness. (November is Alzheimer's Awareness month). My mind flashed back to the theatrical experience and its probing into random scientific and philosophical concepts including the way in which colors affect the body.

INOCULATIONS is an evening of two one-act plays, WHO SHOT JACQUES LACAN? and RADIO ROOSTER SAYS THAT'S BAD. The former runs about 15 minutes, the latter around 45.

As described by Jeremy Paul, Theatre Ninja's Artistic Director, “using rhythm and rhyme, songs and science, INOCULATIONS is a crazed meditation on unconscious drives, millennial paranoia, and collective psychosis.” He adds, “Come for the pumpkin pie: stay for the hallucinations.”

Those who have been to Theatre Ninja's previous productions will not be surprised by Paul's explanation, nor his choice of this duet of plays. Paul, has a knack for picking plays which are challenging. Challenging to the cast, who must find the performance devices to portray characters which are usually extremely non-traditional, often edging on the insane. Also challenging to the audience who must figure out what is going on with these people.

INOCULATIONS is the work of Darren O'Donnell, a Canadian novelist, essayist, performance artist, playwright, director and actor. He states that he “engages the public and claims to prove the generosity, abundance and power of the social sphere.” Sounds obtuse and abstract? Yes, those words definitely explain INOCULATIONS.

WHO SHOT JACQUES LACAN? is an investigation of the theories of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. The play, according to the author, is written so that “the performers create a vortex to slowly evoke the audience's unconscious.” To explain: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, proposed that there was a division between the unconscious (id) and the consciousness (ego). Therefore each human self is divided between his conscious and unconsciousness. Freud thought that human actions are shaped by the unconscious. Lacan developed his own version of psychoanalysis by reinterpreting the theories of Freud with an emphasis on the humanist philosophy, indicating that people made conscious choices and not all of a person's actions were below his/her level of awareness. Lacan's concepts are the basis for WHO SHOT JACQUES LACAN?.

The play, in an abstract way asks such questions as, “Why do we do the things we do?” “Do we chose to act as we do, or are hidden drives causing us to perform in certain ways?” and “Are we responsible for our actions?”

RADIO ROOSER SAYS THAT'S BAD exposes us to the thinking (ranting) of Dr. Radio Rooster, a so called “member of the scientific community” who proposes results of real and fictional research on such subjects as the effect on the human body of exposure to different colors of light and how people are manipulated by music. He expresses righteous indignation regarding theories of science, philosophy and psychology while hanging from a swing, turning various color light bulbs on and off, and speaking through the mouths of a dog (“a very, very good dog”) and a mouse (who prefers cheese to peanut butter). This is a character brimming with paranoia and neuroticism.

The Theatre Ninja production, as is the case with Paul's work, is well conceived.
The actors are centered on their purposes, stay in character, and create the proper intensity. LACAN features Ray Caspio, Val Kozlenko, Ryan Lucas, Amy Pawlukiewicz, Michael Prosen, Nick Riley and Darius Stubbs.

RADIO ROOSTER is basically a very long monologue by the talented Nick Koesters. This is a herculean role. Not only were there 45 minutes of lines to memorize, but the timing needed for being exactly in the right place for all the special lighting effects, is daunting. Koesters, the first member of Actors Equity to appear in a Ninjas production, is marvelous. He is aided by a creatively designed light plan by Paul and technically produced by stage manager Dan Kilbane.

Oh, the pumpkin pie reference in the play's description. Come early and have free pumpkin pie to get you in the mood for the production. Following the obtuse concept of the production, the pie is free, canned whipped cream is a dollar.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: INOCULATIONS is a confounding yet fascinating evening of theatre. The production is well conceived and performed. Besides understanding the play, is the additional task of finding the arts building/factory, where the show is being performed.