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Nick di Gaetano as the Cat Wizard. Photo: Eli Duern.

Theatre Review: Unbridled Futurism at undercurrents—until 02.15.20

By Brian Carroll on February 15, 2020

Captain Nick Di Gaetano (played by Nick Di Gaetano) is an astronaut from an advanced parallel Earth (aka Perfect Earth) and the only known human in the multiverse to travel at the speed of light. On Perfect Earth, after Commander Chris Hadfield, NASA requires all astronauts to play a musical instrument. It appears however that Perfect Earth NASA has lowered the bar on some of the other requirements. Captain Nick is a rock composer of modest ability. His songs about space travel won’t exactly knock David Bowie (“Space Oddity”) or Elton John (“Rocket Man”) off the charts. His lyrics contain lots of scientific terminology, but they reveal that Captain Nick’s understanding of science is about as deep as Deepak Chopra’s word salads.

The good Captain’s companion is an Artificial Intelligence navigator named Mission Control (voiced over by Teddy Ivanova) who is the brains of the team. Her silky voice is initially Captain Nick’s only companion. There’s just one (?) problem. For unspecified reasons, Perfect Earth NASA has programmed Mission Control to translate Captain Nick’s lyrics via his brain waves into navigational instructions for their ship, the Echolalia.

What could possibly go wrong?

Captain Nick is clearly not at the top of Perfect Earth NASA’s roster. So Mission Control’s algorithms send The Echolalia into unknown territory, through a hitherto unknown Space/Time Anomaly, into another parallel universe.

Mysteriously, Captain Nick has caught some sort of disease that randomly puts him “out of phase” with whatever universe he occupies, and Mission Control translates his thought patterns into trajectories that now cross multiverse boundaries. By Mission Control’s count, they have already visited over 600 universes, none of which contain Perfect Earth.

In the hands of Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) or Voltaire (Candide), visiting multiple fictional societies is a recipe for satirizing one’s own society. Creators Di Gaetano and Ivanova imagine a number of universes where:

  • humans die out and are replaced by hyper-intelligent evolved cats,
  • humans are wiped out by vicious evolved raccoons,
  • a parallel Earth society collapses under the leadership of a label-maker executive turned politician, and
  • a parallel company Alphabet redesigns whole cities (for a “small” fee).

In summary, a decent set of premises for a summer Fringe show.

On the way, Captain Nick picks up three human musicians, each from a different parallel universe. If this sounds like a sendup of a bad space opera, well that’s my guess. But even Brian May, lead guitar for Queen, who also has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, hasn’t written a space opera.

Light and tasty like cotton candy at a summer exhibition.

One of the advantages of the Fringe circuit is that artists get to take chances on developing new material on shoestring budgets. The undercurrents version of Unbridled Futurism shows its roots as summer Fringe entertainment (Apt613’s review at Ottawa Fringe, 2017)—light and tasty like cotton candy at a summer exhibition.

Undercurrents Festival is a step up from Fringe. It gives performers a chance to break through the cardboard ceiling: an opportunity to flesh out plots and add production values. Makesndoes theatre company has added a three-man five-instrument backup band and multiple videos to supplement the action on stage. The sidemen play well and the videos are decent quality. But the disjointed plot line still feels stuck in Fringe territory.

In the cold reality of Canadian winter, do we really need a sendup of bad space opera and Deepak Chopra New Age babble? Cotton candy doesn’t sell well in February.

Unbridled Futurism by Makesndoes is playing at the undercurrents Festival at Arts Court Theatre on February 14th at 7PM, and 15th at 7PM. Single tickets are Pay-What-You-Can-Afford, $5, $20, $50 or $75, no questions asked. The performance runs for approximately 60 minutes with no intermission.