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August 14, 2017
Review: ‘The Anthropologists Save the World!’ at Ice Factory 2017
Mariah Freda as Marion, Arisael Rivera as Crocker, Brianna Kalisch as Edda, Alexandra Bonesho as Ashley and Brian Demar Jones as Oscar in The Blackout, part of The Anthropologists Save The World! Photo credit: Jody Christopherson

As I digest the play The Anthropologists Save the World! by the theater collaborative The Anthropologists and directed by company founder Melissa Moschitto, the challenge of art making is crystallized. A piece of theater needs more than just the belief itself — it needs an original idea, or the sense of an original idea, or, well, at least some investigation of an original belief. Without it, a play will feel TV-caricatured and get tired very quickly, despite stemming from a genuine purpose.

The Anthropologists sets up two situations: Aldous Huxley monitoring a quit-smoking group, and a band of survivalists living through a doomsday scenario in New York City. This is set up into two sections, each with very bare design ideas. The dialogue feels improvised, notwithstanding a few specific monologues.

The play wants to be about the paradox of humans as an insensible parasite, our host being our slowly deteriorating planet, and our mockable and ultimately selfish attempts at change. All of those ideas are abundantly clear, because simple ideas are simply communicable through text and plain stage images. What’s not there is an investigation of that belief, a feeling about that belief that goes beyond the initial stirring, the unification of all the ideas.

I think part of the issue is the method. Text and character may not be the best vehicles to talk about this somewhat abstract belief. The performance of Aldous Huxley, who introduced the paradox of the situation, was absolutely a highlight of the evening, as his work was detailed and consistent and fun. But the remainder of the characters, who were tasked with following through with the idea, were uneven, somewhat finite, and contributed to the play's fumbling nature.

The work's epilogue, though, began to break through. Titled The Robots, and finally employing a much more mature sense of spacing and lighting design, the ensemble performed as a group-think amoeba, lost in technology, then two impressive stilts walkers propose to each in a charming-less and interesting absent performance style. It finally hit the spectators where it hurts, finally asked something of us. Perhaps more alternative performance methods are better for these sorts of theatrical inquiries.


Event Info:

Ice Factory Festival

In Manhattan at New Ohio Theatre

Now – Aug 12th, 2017

See the full Event Page
Connected Post:

Interview: Director Melissa Moschitto on Her Dark Comedy ‘The Anthropologists Save The World!’ at Ice Factory 2017

By Hanna Oldsman

The Obie-winning Ice Factory festival presents seven new works from June 28 to August 12 at the New Ohio Theatre. We spoke with The Anthropologists’ Artistic Director Melissa Moschitto about The Anthropologists Save the World! Tell us about your play! The Anthropologists Save The World! is a dark comedy about climate change. It’s an evening of three plays created from found text, source material, improvisation and original writing. Each of them has been created through a devising process (in 2012 and 2017). Our goal was to dig our heels into the question: Does what we do as individuals really matter? The result is part screwball comedy, part nihilism and dash of good old American bravado. What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show come together? Building our epilogue, The Robot, has been particularly gratifying. We’ve created this piece together from scratch with a cast of ten plus our creative and design team. Everyone has been so generous, really embracing the “yes, and” philosophy. The ensemble is made of up company members and actors who have been collaborating and devising with us for many years plus actors who are new to us and/or new to devising. It’s exc …Read more

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