Remember Jonestown? The bizarre 1970s cult led by tyrannical psychopath Jim Jones had its apocalyptic end there. He ordered his 900 followers to commit "revolutionary suicide" by drinking arsenic-laced juice and most did.
What does Jonestown have to do with The Future is a Fancyland Place, recently on the boards at the AllWays Lounge? Nothing in terms of revolutionary suicide, but everything in the sense that truth can be stranger than fiction. Even this fiction.
Andrew Vaught (of Cripple Creek Theatre) and Chris Kaminstein (of Goat in the Road Productions) wrote Fancyland. Phil Cramer designed the evocative set that traversed the theater, with audience seated on both sides. A bare ranch house kitchen with a porch is flanked by a pasture and a desiccated front yard. All the characters speak in country accents and diction — all the characters except the cows.
This is where a Jonestown-like malevolent surrealism sets in. Under the sure-handed direction of Kaminstein, the cast gave themselves over to the confused narrative with utter conviction. This helped but did not entirely compensate for two hours of drama. Half the length would have been twice as good.
There are 27 scenes, each given a Biblical name such as "The Promised Land," "A Pillar of Salt" and "Theology." The play deals with eschatology and science run amok. A lab set up in an abandoned beer cannery emitted some sort of frequency in the hope of creating "the apocalyptic cow." What such a creature would be is unclear.
The cows are infuriated by the frequencies and trample the entire town. The only house spared is Jarville's (Ian Hoch). Soon, however, a herd of cows comes into his pasture as well. These cows are represented by simple puppets with abstract heads connected by chains to abstract bodies. They are manipulated effectively in choreography by Rachel Carrico. The cows have inherited the ability to emit ear-splitting high frequency static, and such abstract noise seems to be one of the signs of the Last Days.
Randy (Matt Standley), Slim (Dave Davis), Hudie (Ross Britz), Sheila (Emilie Whelan), Juniper (Francesca McKenzie), Beulah (Cecile Monteyne), Ovit (Vaught) and Britt (Shannon Flaherty) are a contentious clan searching for the magical cow who will bring about the end of the world. There are abundant and bizarre complications — some opaque but comical, some just opaque.
Randy and Slim, cowhands with an ongoing physical routine, could easily be the two fools who adopt Caliban in The Tempest. Their absurd shenanigans shouldn't work, but they do.
Finally, the clan locates Esther, the fatal bovine (also played by Monteyne). An end-of-the-world machine covering an entire wall is activated, but blows a fuse. So, our shabby collection of Walmarts and Fuddruckers is left intact. — Dalt Wonk