Ysentia and The Adventures of Astroman ask whether redemption of the world is possible | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Ysentia and The Adventures of Astroman ask whether redemption of the world is possible 

Two plays by Dan Mozurkewich present us with a pair of misfit saviors.

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click to enlarge Ysentia

Ysentia

courtesy the Runaways Lab Theatre

In an overheated black box above the streets of Logan Square, the Runaways Lab Theatre presents Ysentia and The Adventures of Astroman, two short plays by Dan Mozurkewich with near-identical themes: the decline of the universe and the rise of a protagonist who may, though neither intrinsically gifted nor particularly driven, save us all.

In Ysentia, a misfit machine made of titanium roams the galaxy in search of a new home. Through encounters with strangers, represented by elegantly cut shadow puppets, Ysentia is told that she has been "chosen for a mission," one that will not be revealed "before the final hour." Spoiler: it is not revealed. The somewhat less hackneyed Adventures of Astroman offers more of everything—more peril, more irony, more dialogue, more characters, more disturbing references to the salubrious effects of drinking milk—as it presents the bleak picture of a world no one really cares to redeem under threat of destruction (or is it mercy?) by the sneering Dr. Kathleen Robotica. The mysterious Astroman might be the hero we need, or maybe he just plays him on TV. His estranged sidekicks, pot-smoking Nintendo freak Lamont and stuttering, suicidal has-been Doughy Dick, offer an uninspiring streak of realism.

Though gamely acted by a committed ensemble, both plays are heavy on exposition and light on dramatic tension created by the characters or scenario. Indeed, the world is ending. With sharper focus on the catatonia of terrestrial ennui than the fantasy of celestial potential, it is difficult to care.   v

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