Vaudeville, bouffon, and circus meet progressive rock in BRAT Productions’ ensemble-devised cabaret performance ALWAYS COMING SOON: THE FUTURE. It’s a compelling combination that entertains, mocks, and provokes through BRAT’s signature high-energy music, intriguing visual design, and dynamic physical theater which begins the moment you enter the venue as aggressive carnival buskers hawk popcorn, drinks, and breaths of fresh air to the incoming audience.
The superb Justin Rose leads the talented cast of Tabitha Allen, Rob Cutler, and BRAT artistic director Jess Conda, appearing in white-face makeup and vintage-style costumes (designed by Rachel E. Coon) in a future that looks remarkably like the dregs of the past. As four social outcasts—a trio of down-and-out clowns and an aging lady whose best days are behind her—they address and assault the audience, exposing a disturbing view of times to come. The show is set to the satirical prog-rock of musical director, composer, and lead artist Peter Gaffney (who, in 2009-10, developed the nine songs used in THE FUTURE as part of a 50-song catalogue for The Experiment—a monthly series in collaboration with Cabaret Red Light, which he co-founded). Played by experimental band members Rolf Lakaemper, Andrew Morris, Andrew Nelson, and Gaffney, the innovative soundscape includes groundbreaking effects of real-time audio processing and digital manipulation by Adam Vidiksis, which contribute to the futuristic tone.
Along with all the eye- and ear-catching ingredients—filled with time-warped reminiscences of 1931 Berlin and a distinctly Parisian flavor of late 19th-century Montmartre, a Toulouse-Lautrec painting come to life—there’s serious substance in BRAT’s original story and engaging performances. Conda is affecting as Shirley, the older woman who wants to live forever, but is forced to deal with the grim reality of a future that never lives up to its promise and repeats the totalitarian control imposed by regimes throughout human history. Allen and Cutler are charming as the barefoot underling clowns to Rose’s lead, who enthralls with his commanding personality, shifting emotions, and physical agility. All bring strong voices and masterful movement to their absurdist roles, under Matt Sharp’s colorful lighting and the skillful stage direction of Scott Sheppard, BRAT’s 2013-2014 Resident Artist. [Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St.] May 16-18, 2014; www.thefuturenearyou.com.