They're back! Well, sort of.
Three years ago, The Neo-Futurists opened Geva's new Nextstage with Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. New players from the same outfit are presenting the same nonsensical title on the Nextstage again, taking time off from their perpetual clowning in Chicago, at (where else?) the Neo-Futurarium.
The Neo-Futurists change the selection of "plays" that make up Too Much Light every night --- about 30 percent of them are different each time, they say. An audience member rolls dice each night to see how many of the short works will change. So, I can describe what they've done, but there's no telling what they'll do next time.
The Nextstage is for alternative theater, and believe me, this group is nothing but alternatives. Audience members roll a die to determine the cost of their ticket: the base price is $12, plus between $1 and $6. A clothesline strung with numbers 1 to 30 hangs over the stage, and the audience calls out numbers to determine the order of the playlets these zanies will perform in one hour. You get a menu with 30 titles, numbered, and as each is chosen, the actors jump up and grab that number off the clothesline before performing it. Example: #22 "The Painfully Abridged Jane Austin."
If the intimate theater sells out, The Neo-Futurists order pizza for everyone to eat at the end of the show. The cast also asks for ideas and assistance during the show, and the program includes their individual e-mail addresses with a plea to "Email Us!".
Of course, there's more artifice and planning than they let on. This year's Futurists don't always pretend persuasively that they're really listening to what numbers are called out and are consequently performing the playlets in random progression. They usually finish all 30 before the hour is up, but they take maybe 35 minutes to set it all up before they start the clock. And we cynics don't really believe the program note that says "Guaranteed to Remove All Your Unwanted Body Hair!".
But they give good fun. In sudden, spot-lit freezes, Ryan Walters offers undressed poses that we are, understandably, warned not to ever think about. Noelle Krimm, who can sing, makes us wonder about that with some bits of song you won't want to ever think about again.
In "This Play Will Not End Until Sean Earns Enough Money To Buy A Beer After The Show," Sean Benjamin presents such a pathetic threat of guitar-playing and song that people rush up to throw dollars at him and end it quickly. Jay Torrence earnestly contributes both mathematical knowledge and motivational expertise on making money that I certainly want to forget. And Diana Slickman gives us commentary so dry that it bears amazing resemblance to something that makes sense.
These energetic, deadpan put-on artists are so entirely likable that if few of their "plays" are well-crafted, sharply pointed, or silly enough to be hilarious, I, for one, don't care. They're diverting and a pleasure to be around.
The Neo-Futuristsplay with the audience at Geva Theatre Center's Nextstage, 75 Woodbury Blvd., through February 9. Performances are Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m. Tix: $13-$18. 585-232-GEVA (4382), www.gevatheatre.org.
WallByrd Theatre Company, a new Rochester group, stages an updated version of the little-known Jacobean tragedy.