Rube Goldberg meets Marcel Duchamp. Al Gore meets Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick's
machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, the latest funny, bizarre show from Rainpan 43, is more a contraption than a play, an elaborate goof that is part three big boys messing around with a bunch of junk in a garage (literally - the theater is in a garage in South Philly) and part serious political message. But that's only two parts, and that's not nearly enough.
This show is about machines - complicated, ridiculous machines (designed by Steven Dufala and Billy Blaise Dufala) that provide what cartoonist Rube Goldberg called the "symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results."
In other words, doing things the hard way. The long way. The wasteful way. Most of our hard, long, wasteful work is created by technology these days, so there is something sweet and quaint in the notion of an old-fashioned, cumbersome machine - a rigged-up set of strings and pulleys, and chutes and flywheels, and fishing poles and eggbeaters - to slice a banana, or pet a cat, or pour cereal into a bowl. Cause-and-effect right out there, where you can see it.
In the play, three guys (Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle) live in a tiny room where they indulge their paranoia about what's out there in various ways: The "commander in chief" talks to God on the phone; another talks in pseudo-military bulletins through a voice-modifying microphone; another talks only in archaic English.
There's necessarily some improvising, both in physical action to deal with the inevitable failure of the machines (that's the Goldbergian point) and in dialogue to cover the failure of the props (oops, ran out of cereal).
Hiroshi Iwasaki's set design seems to be based on the Murphy Bed principle: Open a door, and there's a toilet attached to it (with a guy in goggles sitting on it); a table becomes a sofa, which swallows a man.
James Sugg's sound design is both scary and hilarious as one brother asks: "What dark magic plays us like a fiddle?" Good question. Is there really danger? Are they really crazy? The egg they are about to fry clucks. The bicycle wheel attached to a wooden frame neighs when stroked.
"What's cooking in the universe?" is the show's opening question. And, as it turns out, they mean the cooking literally, as everything starts dripping and leaking, a nod to global warming. Uh, oh. Get Noah on the phone.
Created and performed by
Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel,
Trey Lyford, and Geoff Sobelle.
Directed by Aleksandra Wolska. Sets by Hiroshi Iwasaki, lighting by James Clotfelter, sound by James Sugg, Machines by Steven Dufala and Billy Blaise Dufala.
Presented by Rainpan 43.
Playing at Alter(ed) Garage,
818 Alter Street, through
Tickets $20 to $25 Information:
215-351-3185 or www.machinesmachines-