“Have you ever lived in the past? Have you ever tried to re-create the way the future might appear to a person not aware of the way things are now?” That question kicks off Futurity, a new concert-performance by César Alvarez and his band the Lisps. It’s one of the last concrete thoughts you’ll hear all evening. Soon afterward the dialogue and lyrics ricochet between speakers historical (Ada Lovelace, a mathematician) and fictional (Julian Munro, Unionist foot soldier) as they muse about building a wondrous machine that could bring peace to their war-scarred earth.
With thirteen uniformed performer-musicians to marshal around the stage, Futurity doesn’t linger on specifics: There are songs to be sung, and it doesn’t really matter that we often don’t know why anyone’s singing them. Curly of mane and deep of voice, Alvarez has an appealingly earnest presence, but the show dwells a bit too much on the significance of the artist in a fallen world — a weirdly navel-gazing subtheme. On the other hand, this Soho Rep./Ars Nova production invites us to a celebration of music’s transcendent powers, not to a drama. The soaring songs range from toe-tappin’ country twang to radiant spirituals, with infusions of banjo and bugle. Imagine Ken Burns meeting the Magnetic Fields on a scaffold with talented, well-intentioned millennials — and you’re halfway there. Don’t worry about why you’re getting uplifted, just surrender your present arms and enjoy the instruments at hand.
By César Alvarez with the Lisps
220 East 4th Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 21, 2015