Are you tired of capitalism? Sick of not owning the means of production? Do you wish that you could retain the value of your labor? Then, buddy, have I got a show for you!
“The Neo-Futurists Sell Out” is the sarcastic socialist’s wet dream. Created by and starring Connor Shioshita Pickett, Jasmine Henri Jordan, Neil Bhandari, Deidre Huckabay, and directed by Lavina Jadhwani, the group transform the Neo-Futurist Theater into a corporate board room, with Windows 98-style PowerPoint presentations, frantic focus groups and an overall eerie ambience created by tech director Spencer Meeks.
Four corporate shills dressed in 1990s office attire (but with neon hot pants instead of trousers) sit behind a long aluminum desk with one goal in mind, to get you to conform to their corporate hierarchical way of life. The plan of indoctrination is delivered via short skits and interludes of music and dance.
These doldrum desk jockeys descend into dark territory. A general sense of reality is unraveled as Huckabay, in a shoulder-padded blazer, slickly fills our heads with buzzword-y mind-worms. (If time is money, and time is space, then money is time, and space is…) Pickett and Bhandari turn into two talking heads and deliver a rapid-fire list of nearly everything that is wrong with the economics of modern society. By the end, the group shreds every audience member’s perception of their “abstract capital.” (The sentimental value of your pets? Gone!)
It’s not all doom and gloom; there is plenty of lightheartedness. Huckabay and Jordan dance in a pas de deux that has them swinging themselves across the floor on rolling desk chairs while discharging bubble guns to the sound of pastoral music.
Back and forth interactions between Pickett and booth-bound technician, Spencer Meeks, offer comedic distraction. Early in the show, a hanging lamp falls, the audience startled by its dying spark and loud crash. “Don’t worry, Spencer,” says Pickett. “I have a little flashlight.” Other instances of power-outages and uneven microphone volumes are handled with a similar joviality and nonchalance.
To be honest, I have a hard time telling which, or if, any of the “technical difficulties” were part of the show or not—it seems like something they might do. Regardless, the patient playfulness between Pickett and Meeks is charming and funny.
My only gripe is that the lighting is big-theater quality in a small-theater setting. Be prepared for harsh strobe effects and LED lighting that threatens to burn your eyeballs.
“The Neo-Futurists Sell Out” is a stringent and dour critique of capitalism that delivers a positive existential message, that once one becomes aware of the pitfalls of neo-liberalism, we can take steps to counter it. In fact, this show is just that. “During our preview a Silicon Bank collapsed,” announced newly appointed artistic director of The Neo-Futurists, Connor Shioshita Pickett. “It’s the second largest bank collapse in American history and I would like to believe that we made that happen!”
All talk of institutional financial collapse aside, “The Neo-Futurists Sell Out” is that brand of gritty, urban sketch comedy that Chicago is famous for, to be enjoyed by both capitalists and comrades alike.
“The Neo-Futurists Sell Out” at The Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 North Ashland. Tickets are $9.99-$89.99 and can be purchased here. March 16-April 22.