Though not served in a paper cone, Do Not Do This Ever Again, which kicked off this year’s Ice Factory series, closely resembles cotton candy. Written by Karinne Keithley and directed by Maria Goyanes, the piece is tooth-achingly sweet, light as air, and nearly as insubstantial. The play largely consists of actors dressed in pale green intoning disconnected declarative sentences. They pause to offer a tour of an abandoned house, perform a “dance of Azerbaijani longing,” and yield to a trio of red-clad singers who stage an operetta about Marie Antoinette in Maine.
Keithley has studied with Mac Wellman, and while she has absorbed his insistence on the primacy of language, she doesn’t share the qualities that ground him: grim humor and a fondness for B-movie plots. Humorless and plotless too, the piece nevertheless has moments of striking beauty. That operetta, for instance, is heartbreaking; later, Jay Smith performs an outlandish monologue about a bestial sacrifice. But the script has too little connective tissue and too many precious koans. For example, one actor proclaims: “If someone asks for advice, I tell them, ‘Be the most free. Try not to throw your voice. Study the fossil record. For rhymes, if that’s your thing.'”
Were Keithley and Goyanes to ask for advice, I would not tell them to be the most free, but rather to fetter themselves to a more particular structure and purpose. Other Ice Factory shows may prove more robust, like an adaptation of Neil Young’s Greendale from Dallas’s Undermain (July 23-26) and the Riot Group’s Victory at the Dirt Palace (August 20-23). After Keithley’s ethereal phrases, dirt and rock ‘n’ roll seem welcome.