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machines machines machines machines machines machines machines

This giddy, deliriously funny enterprise at HERE is not only good enough to redeem not just its exuberant title, but possibly the idea of experimental theater. logo
Trey Lyford in machines machines machines...
(© Jacques-Jean Tiziou)
machines machines machines machines machines machines machines is the show so nice they named it twice. Okay, seven times -- but, this time, the attention-grabbing moniker isn't overcompensating for bland, gimmicky material. This giddy, deliriously funny enterprise from the exciting company rainpan 43 -- now at HERE --is not only good enough to redeem its title, but possibly the idea of experimental theater. Here is a work that is proudly, playfully trying out new things and inviting you to bear witness and share in the mutual delight of discovery.

What you'll discover is a world of Rube Goldberg machines that's like the board game Mouse Trap come to life. Phineas (Geoff Sobelle), Liam (Trey Lyford), and The Chief Commander (Quinn Bauriedel) are idiot savants who have bedecked their cluttered man-cave in simple machines with grand designs. But the stage magic they achieve is no illusion. Preparing a breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee is a marvelous adventure of physics that happens in riveting real-time. Not everything goes according to plan -- but the happy little accidents are so seamlessly incorporated into the action that it's hard to tell what, if anything, is scripted.

Plot rarely intrudes into this playground, since the lunatic trio are paranoids, easily distracted by their environs.. But that's just as well, since the final third of the 75-minute evening is easily its least focused and enjoyable stretch. The fun is watching these wonderful mad men at play. Lyford, wishing he were a robot, speaks like Michael Winslow from the Police Academy movies -- complete with beeps, blips, and other mouth-manufactured sound effects. Sobelle, monstrously enthusiastic and jauntily British, conflates snippets of the "Jabberwocky" and the St. Crispin's Day speech. Bauriedel, meanwhile, affects a Jimmy Stewart style of speaking that occasionally careens into Richard Nixon.

Similarly terrific is the immersive design work, which is so of a piece that it's hard to find the seams between sound (James Sugg), "music machines" (Sean Mattio), machine design (Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala), scenic design (Hiroshi Iwasaki), lighting design (James Clotfelter), and house lighting design (Marlon Hurt). Aleksandra Wolska is billed with direction and Charlotte Ford with further direction -- I'm not sure in this context what either job entailed -- but all of the partictipting artists have combined their talents to create the thrill of watching people do unnatural things completely naturally.

The lack of artifice makes you feel like something of an amateur scientist, as if you're peering through a glass at some peculiar, gifted species. Still, as much as you'd like to jump to the other side, you realize you're probably safer on this one.

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