With puppetry, projection, lighting, and video timed perfectly to a live, original, nerdcore rap score, .d0t:: a RotoPlastic Ballet runs like clockwork, even as it tells the stories of machines destroying the perfect System.
.d0t is something of a reboot of a much older show, Balli Plastici. Almost a century ago, in 1918, Italian futurist Fortunato Depero produced a ballet of marionettes, accompanied by collaborating musicians, to explore the idea of technology advancing and breaking free of human influence. Depictions of the original marionettes remain, some of which live on in almost exact replication as puppets for this show, including .d0t itself (The boyish slice of pepperoni pizza was originally a clown).
While many of the puppet designs are unchanged, Pointless’ .d0t breaths new life into the concept through its very 21stcentury musical collaborator. Navid Azeez’s unique brand of nerdcore rap fits perfectly with this post-modern revival, upping the energy to the electric pace of alternating current.
Azeez plays NAVI, the last human being. He is tasked with ruling over a bustling society of machines, while taking direction himself from oli::v3 (Pronounced, “Olive”). Costume designer Frank Labovitz dresses NAVI somewhere between Willy Wonka and his oompa loompas, formal yet cartoonish, with bold colors.
Azeez’s musical direction and lyrics are vibrant and engaging. His performance alone is a spectacle; as Azeez spits out song after song, sweat rolls down his face. As long as you can keep up, the songs will also reward you with their rhymes and wordplay.
He is accompanied by Nick Wilby and Mike Winch, who play their instruments while entirely obscured by racing driver outfits. Not only musical performers, they also perform roles in NAVI’s world, mechanically taking orders and preserving the fiction that NAVI is alone.
It takes eight puppeteers to play the rest of NAVI’s subjects, and they earn the right to call this show a ballet. In the opening number, the show bursts to life with lighting, projections, video, and, of course, puppets that dazzle with their intricate interplay.
The eponymous .d0t is a single worker in NAVI’s regime who glitches. In spreading its corrupted code, .d0t leads a rebellion against the system. Intentionality isn’t very clear, though. The show’s weakest link is how undeveloped .d0t is: It’s unclear what it did before becoming infected, how it felt about life before, or even how it feels about life after, as it overthrow its ruler.
In comparison, oli::v3 is a break-out star. With text by Aaron Bliden and voice by Rachel Menyuk, she follows in the footsteps of female AI like GlaDos as an unsettling matriarch of a ruthless system. As the show progresses, she becomes increasingly musical herself and is a wonderful contrast to the impulsive, sweaty human she both serves and commands.
.d0t:: a RotoPlastic Ballet
closes May 6, 2017
Details and tickets
.d0t’s silence also leaves more room for NAVI, which gives the audience a unique perspective: A completely earnest and well-meaning dictator facing revolution. NAVI doesn’t seem opulent nor malevolent; in fact, he mostly worries about unemployment, in those rare times when he thinks of himself instead of simply being concerned for the System.
At 35 minutes, .d0t is short, but also just the right length for this type of show. Navi’s rapid-fire lyrics must take up a serious number of pages, and every part of the design speaks volumes about the System and its destruction. Together, they fit an hour’s worth of world-building and text into half the time, thankfully without Azeez or any of the many puppeteers dying of exhaustion from keeping up their unrelenting rhythm and energy. Pointless Theatre’s 99-year-old reboot gets right to the matter at hand: A story whose topic and telling are undeniably now.
.d0t:: a RotoPlastic Ballet. Written by Navid Azeez, Aaron Bliden, Patti Kalil, and Matt Reckeweg. Inspired by Fortunato Depero. Music direction, lyrics, and composition by Navid Azeez. Sound design and composition by Mike Winch. Olive text by Aaron Bliden. Directed and set design by Matt Reckeweg. Puppet design by Patti Kalil. Costume design by Frank Labovitz. Produced by Pointless Theatre . Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.