Theater Review: Houston, We Have a Problem with “2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical!”
Enthusiasm simply wasn’t enough to salvage the production—the musical comedy 2010 contains too many pitfalls to overcome.
2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical! Produced and Presented by Unreliable Narrator Theater Group at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, (Closed).
By Michela Smith
The cast and crew of the intriguingly titled 2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical! were nothing if not enthusiastic as they sang the woes of our futuristic dystopia last Friday at the always-swank Oberon Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Even 2010 composer and sound designer Andy Hicks could be seen dancing wildly in the rafters as the lyrics he wrote echoed through the theater.
Yet, in this case, enthusiasm simply wasn’t enough to salvage the production—2010 contains too many pitfalls to overcome.
Set in New Malden, A.D. 2010, the world of 2010 is run by the Artas, online beings who control humans through their connections on the World Wide Web. The Arta takeover is relatively recent, and there remains a group of freedom fighter humans who refuse to assimilate. The group is led by Kate Brick (Kamela Dolinova) who, at the start of the play, has just installed a virus in the Arta’s network. Hunted by the lead Arta, The MC (Julia Lunetta), Kate is forced to go on the run with her quirky lover Denhise (Emily Taradash) for the sake of survival and the revolution.
It’s a timeworn plot, but there was the potential for a kind of nerdy, techno-crazed satire. Inside jokes and popular culture allusions are littered throughout the script, fodder for computer gamers, science-fiction fans, and TV mavens. And while some in the audience howled at the computer-lingo and Blade Runner allusions, I, along with other technological laymen, were soon lost in the binary language one-liners. Worse, some of the jokes fell flat or could be classified as middle school quips. At this point, 2010 is geared to a niche audience—the script will have to be recalibrated (and smartened up) to reach a broader audience.
Once the show’s limits are understood, 2010 provides some funny bits. Kate and Denhise’s visit to Maine to hear the “Mainiacs” rib the Pine Tree state via the “Bangor Boogie” garnered giggles from the cosmopolitan crowd. When Artas had “freeze ups” (computer glitches), the performers came up with some winning, physical comedy moves.
Some of the cast members used their enthusiasm to rise above the stereotypical. Taradash’s Denhise came off as a perky but naive sidekick whose Simpsons-like whine onstage endeared audiences to her cause. John Deschene was particularly nasty as The MC’s cohort, Nad Peeler, a round, wide-eyed villain who recalled Harry Potter’s Wormtail and who was not afraid to squirm and cackle in delight at his own malevolence. Tim Hoover as the MC’s lover, The Efficienator, and Will Todisco as the Narrator/Tristan were notable for their charismatic vocals.
The musical success of 2010 was as erratic as its humor. Composer Hicks came up with intricate lyrics, but they were often difficult to understand, dissolving into a jumbled confusion for which the actors are culpable, not Hicks.
In addition, while the electronic sound of much of the evening’s music fit with the futuristic theme of the production, Hicks’ compositions were prerecorded. The dynamics of a live band were missed, though the energy of the singers contributed some pizazz. Taradash stood out as the strongest singer in the cast; Dolinova’s pipes also packed some pleasure. Still, the vocal range of some of the singers was too limited to deliver what the score asks.
There were several creative set design choices. Much of the Oberon Theater space was used for the production’s various settings—it was entertaining to guess where the cast would pop up next. In the scene when the MC was transformed into a human in order to dance, a cleverly illuminated sheet was used to cast shadows on the two hoofers, breaking with the gritty, dystopian design of the rest of the play. It was a joyous moment that, perhaps as 2010 undergoes revisions, Hicks will multiply.