Unless some local troupe stages an unusually rigorous revival of Little Shop of Horrors soon, Botanica—now playing at 3LD—likely stands as this season’s only show to credit a “plant interaction designer” and a “consulting botanist.” Amid a research lab/bio-dome (courtesy Peter Ksander’s extraordinary set design, which includes more than 200 live plants), two scientists and a plant janitor conduct unorthodox experiments on vegetation. Convinced that these assorted flora experience something akin to human consciousness, the researchers coddle them, threaten them, and Taser them to force reactions. Janitor Chet (Chet Mazur) even initiates a sexual relationship with one particularly glossy subject.
Director Jim Findlay, who co-wrote the script with Jeff Jackson, hasn’t strayed far from his roots. Like his earlier work with Collapsable Giraffe, Botanica is raunchy, messy, and sweatily intense. It’s also arduous and overlong, though its 100-minute running time is speedy compared with the 12-hour installation version Findlay had once devised. After an involving first half-hour, ideas about experiment, emotion, and isolation devolve into an excuse to shed clothing, eat dirt, and perform floral cunnilingus. What begins as anarchic and enjoyably weird becomes wearing, even as the sophisticated sound and lighting design grow increasingly assaultive. For all its early promise—to say nothing of its grow lights and watering cans—Botanica withers.