Fiction and fact get slippery in this absorbingly personal performance.
Like something out of a dream, the Neo-Futurists’ gripping Mike Mother feels entirely plausible in the moment, but its events sound absurd upon further, removed reflection. Of course, this is regularly the idea with experimental Neo-Futurist productions—and yet, this show in particular, written by and starring Neo-Futurist ensemble member Jessica Anne, dedicates its 80-some-minute runtime to soaking in a murky tub of real and surreal, then wringing out every last emotional drop.
Slipping and sliding, often literally, from Anne’s knotty relationship with her mother to pop culture nods and wildlife documentary clips, the action follows a satisfying, unsettling build as Anne and only fellow castmate Mike Hamilton (the title’s namesake) quietly complicate the vague story laid out in the play’s laugh-out-loud first scenes. Hamilton proves himself to be a sturdy counterweight to Anne’s manic performance, reigning the show in from totally bizarre to evocatively chaotic. Anne, meanwhile, seems to bring her powerful, poetic script to life with bolts of lightening. Audience members can’t help but chase after the actress as she wades through whether her experiences are real or imagined, right alongside Hamilton.
The Neo-Futurists’ trippy signature aesthetic—punctuated here with details like a snowy old TV set, a retro puppet theater, and ominous fog and spotlights courtesy of scenic designer Erik Newman and lighting designer John Kelly—heightens the show’s underlying sense of fuzziness as it taps into the cob-webbed recesses of characters and viewers’ memory. Slippery and surprising as it is, Mother uses authentic connection as the most effective tool in its one-of-a-kind toolbox. Connection between the performers and the audience, between Anne and Hamilton, and between Anne and her own past cuts through the fog, and while viewers are left to contemplate what exactly they’ve just seen, what they’ve just felt is much clearer.
The Neo-Futurarium. By Jessica Anne. Directed by Josh Matthews. With Anne, Mike Hamilton. Running time: 1hr 20mins; no intermission.