Order by number | VailDaily.com

Order by number

Wren Wertin

Though snacks will be served, the Neo-Futurists don’t dish up food. They are purveyors of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” 30 plays performed in 60 minutes. Each one has a number, and they’re acted in whatever order the audience dictates. If the set lists any two shows that resemble each other it is pure coincidence, because it’s up to the audience to order by number.

This is experimental theater at its most experimental, while still being a cohesive unit. Each play is written by the actor who performs it. There are no costumes, simply street clothes.

“You’re always yourself on stage,” said Greg Allen, director. “It’s us, dealing with our lives and situations. The bottom line is honesty. We’re more about raising the questions, not giving answers.”

“Too Much Light” was first performed in 1988. Still popular 14 years later, it’s the longest-running show in Chicago. That’s saying something for a place as in love with theater as the Windy City.

“We try to get away from the idea of celebrity,” said Allen. “We’re very accessible … We are dedicated to cheap, affordable theater.”

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Affordable theater means a ticket price that starts at $10 for the Beaver Creek shows. When audience members arrive at the door, they roll a die. Whatever number shows up is the additional dollar cost of the show, so the cheapest ticket is $11, and the most expensive is $16. It’s all luck of the roll. As Allen puts it, they’ve been nickel and diming their audiences for years, and doing a good job of it.

But not without audience benefits. They started a tradition at their inception called “Sell Out and Take Out.” If they sell out a performance, they spring for pizza. To this end, Executive Chef David Sanchez of Allie’s Cabin will have homemade pizza dough and toppings on hand. If the show sells out, he will be serving hand-shaped pizzas for the lot, in addition to a smattering of passed hors d’oeuvres.

The Neo-Futurists are a hodgepodge of theories and influences. They take their name from the Italian Futurists, from whom they borrowed “exultation of speed, brevity, compression, dynamism and the explosion of preconceived notions.” Like the Dadaists and Surrealists, they are seduced by the thrill of the unconscious and randomness.

“Like theater of the ’60s, we’ve got interactive elements. We like to approach the audience in a conceptual way,” said Allen.

They’re able to do that, especially in Chicago, where there’s a much more open theater community. Allen estimates the city has 150 theater companies, who perform in excess of 100 shows per week.

The Neo-Futurists come as part of the Theatre Festival’s “Best of Chicago Theatre.”

“We’re really excited that we’re making theater accessible to everyone with this fun, quirky show,” said Shelley Woodworth of the Vilar Center.

Allie’s Cabin is on Beaver Creek mountain. In order to get there, go to either the Vilar Center or Rendezvous Bar and Grill; vans will shuttle people from there. The first van leaves at 6:45 p.m. and the last one at 7:50 p.m. Allow 10 minutes for travel time in the van.There will be free hors d’oeuvres from 7 to 8 p.m., when the show will begin. The bar will be open throughout. For more information, call the box office at 845-TIXS.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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