Future Anxiety's Dystopia Dawn

The Flea Theater's Bats fly into playwright Laurel Haines's troubled new era

Flo, an aerobics instructor and cryogenics enthusiast, has just woken up into a new world. "I can't wait!" she burbles. "What's out there? Jet packs? Robot maids?" But apparently the late 21st century lacks all the fun stuff. Not a single flying car or disintegration ray enlivens the goofy pessimism of Laurel Haines's Future Anxiety, directed by Jim Simpson at the Flea.

Less a play than a plotless series of sketches—nearly 50 scenes hustle through its 75 minutes—Haines give hints of times to come, but never settles on a story. The piece mostly serves to showcase the talents of the Bats, the Flea's perennially plucky young company. Two dozen of them act various roles, including a reanimated fitness instructor, a creepy rocket-ship enthusiast, and a labor-camp enforcer with a taste for poetry. As always, Simpson marshals his crew confidently. If some lack technique, they all compensate with dewy enthusiasm.

Haines's short scenes repel boredom, but even in totality, they never present a persuasive picture of the lived reality of this future world. We're given an onslaught of characters and circumstances, but no experiential sense of what being there might actually entail. There's talk of extreme weather and bodies in the streets, of the extinction of strawberries and cacao, but these are ancillary details rather than part of a fully articulated whole.

The future imperfect
Richard Termine
The future imperfect

Details

Future Anxiety
By Laurel Haines
The Flea Theater
41 White Street
212-352-3101, theflea.org

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Toward the end, the play takes on a scolding tone, revealing that it's all our fault. Yes, our takeout containers and air conditioning and giddy overconsumption have brought the world to this pass. All this suffering, all this distress—and not even a single pair of antigravity boots? Guess we'd better start recycling.

 
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