Viewing Pointless Theatre’s Imagination Meltdown Adventure is like looking at a bowl of half-melted ice cream: what you see is runny, messy, and almost formless. But then you think “whatever:” though it might be a little soupy, it’s still just as sweet, cool and rich as it would be fresh out of the carton.
In the show’s program, director Lex Davis writes: “You have to make a mess to clean a mess.” If it is a mess Davis wanted to create, he sure succeeded. The story, a fantasy with heroes and villains of all kinds, monsters, magical powers, strange lands, and other weird occurrences, is ultimately about how a man struggles with the fact that an old girlfriend is marrying a man he hates.
The story, as it is, takes entirely too long to set up. The early scenes are extended and kinda slow. Worse, they are tonally different from the rest of the play (more melodramatic than comedic). Audiences less informed might believe, in these first minutes, that they are seeing a completely different play than what the company intends.
The story finally begins as our hero (played by Zach Latta, according to the program), in a drunken stupor, awakes to a conversation with the trash can he had puked in. The fantasy that follows takes a twisted, meandering path that eschews normal story arcs. Though there is a confrontation with the ”bad guys” near the end, it does not feel like a climax, and the story with its themes of how ordinary people become “heroes” leaves it unclear whether or not the protagonist actually completes his journey.
Still, I liked the play. Though the story left me adrift much of the time, somehow the play manages to succeed in its objective. Creativity can do that sometimes.
The performances are all decent, but not transcendent. What will grab you at this show are the visual and auditory elements. A successful fantasy has to immerse you in its leaps from reality. This production repeatedly finds interesting ways to do that. The play has numerous references to pop culture and traditional heroic myths, but the costumes and props seem entirely original. The “Council of Villains” scene near the end looks like the most expensive costume party you’ll see. The talking trash can, multi-headed, is absolutely gorgeous. The monster the hero faces earlier in his quest, though simply yards of cloth with actors underneath, is a fearful presence.
The set’s shifting scenery, consisting usually of little set pieces like cardboard houses moved around by the actors, contribute to the play’s attitude that nothing is fixed and constant. The set and puppets are the creations of Rachel Menyuk, Daniel Dobrelski, and Kyra Corridin. The costumes are by Brittany Graham.
The music, written and performed by Jay Kasten, Aaron Bliden, and Naill Owen McCrusker is another strong point. Mostly hard rock, with some folk and funk flavors tossed in, it is outstanding throughout and always appropriate. The play, though not a musical in the strict sense, has several music numbers, performed entertainingly by the cast.
Imagination Meltdown Adventure has 6 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at Mountain at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC.