Had FDR attended more drama, his famed utterance might have run, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Well, that and audience participation.” (un)afraid, a heavily participatory and Halloween-themed show by the Neo-Futurists, aims to help actors and audience members quiet their fears. Unless, of course, standing and speaking before a crowd of people is what really terrifies them. The four-person cast uses skits, songs, stories, and onstage séances to investigate horror and dread.
In the opening song, the quartet sings about people and things one might do well to worry over—rapists, knives, monsters. (And, yes, I think I’ll go on being afraid of large insects, thanks very much.) But the explorations of terror become increasingly abstract, underwritten, and disjointed. The Neo-Futurists’ signal show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, offers 30 short, sharp plays in 60 minutes. So sustained theme isn’t really their thing. Neither, it seemed from the amount of dropped and fumbled lines in un(afraid), is rehearsal. One participant who knew her lines perfectly was the long-deceased horror writer Shirley Jackson, whom the corps attempted to contact via Ouija. Helpfully, she obliged them with a cryptic message from beyond the grave: “2 3 T R 5.” That’s her shortest story yet.