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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

'Too Much Light' rapidfire fun

By Lauren Hoffman
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 6, 2005

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” which ran this past weekend in Haugen Theater, is the only show in recent memory to feature eight St. Olaf students and an orange.

Fortunately, the show’s inclusion of citrus-based performers is not the only remarkable aspect of this production.

“Too Much Light” was first performed in Chicago nearly 16 years ago by a postmodern troupe of actors who called themselves the “neofuturists.” In its simplest form, the neofuturist philosophy stresses that theater be absolutely honest and fully reflective towards life. This philosophy is what gives “Too Much Light” its spontaneity.

The production is comprised of a multi-play system in which the audience determines the order of the plays by yelling out the corresponding numbers listed in the program. Additionally, the line between the audience and the actors is blurred as the fourth wall is often non-existent and the actors interact with each other and the audience as themselves, not as characters.

It’s a production that is, in equal measures, personal and political, funny and tragic, surreal and profoundly realistic. Because the philosophy of the show is to be as close to real life as possible, tragedy and comedy are juxtaposed and sometimes exist concurrently. Transitions are nonexistent, endings are abrupt and the show’s only cohesion lies in the fact that it is as random as possible – but, then again, so is life.

At its heart, “Too Much Light” is a comedy show – with moments of drama, tenderness, abject absurdity and poignancy mixed in.

The uniformly strong cast managed to make the pieces work – despite the plays’ brevity. The ensemble worked with admirable unity in the pieces that featured the entire company, especially “Danger Can,” arguably the world’s briefest and most surreal musical and “Remember the Maine,” a political satire which reminds the audience that “War is good for people – and it sells newspapers!”

The show’s unique and diverse nature meant that every audience member came away with a different favorite performance. However, Mandy Morgan ‘06 and C. Ryan Shipley’s ‘05 monologue riffs on rage in various forms were especially memorable, as was Max Wojtanowicz ‘06 as the disgruntled vending machine, a role he was seemingly born to play.

Some pieces don’t work as well. Allowing the audience to determine the order in which the plays are presented means that the company runs the risk of funnier pieces overshadowing more serious moments or the show ending on an awkward or offbeat note. While the actors’ transitions between the serious and comedic moments seem effortless, it’s sometimes difficult for the audience to keep up and transition with the same ease. It’s fortunate, then, that one of the tenets of neofuturism is the need for a level of comfort with the possibility of failure.

Moments of failure, however, do little to dampen the overall spirit of the production. It’s a fun 60 minutes in the theatre and a slice of the lives that we all lead. So if you missed the eight Oles and the orange this year, worry not their triumphant return to the stage is only a year away.

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