Like Monty Python, this show combines a little drama, song and dance with a whole lot of comedy. Does it work without English accents and dry British humor?

By Andrew Andrews

Stephen Keyes, Trenton Clark and Topher Wallace bring song and dance to TftNC's Johnson Theater in Abdication! Original photo by Liz Devine.

The fictional story collection Mumm’s Tales of Abdication serves as the source for three “episodes” tied together by a singing, dancing Narrator (Trenton Clark) in the style of a 60’s or 70’s TV variety show. In the first piece, a loser from Staten Island horrifies his family by announcing his plans to sign up for a full-time, 33-month virtual reality experiment compared to The Matrix. Next up, two patients at the Northwest Psychosurgical Institute decide to give romance one last try before submitting to an “amygdala-resurfacing” procedure known colloquially as a “love lobotomy.” And in the final episode, set in a near alternative future, a woman takes a five hour bus ride to her nearest Spectrum Bureau to petition to have her color changed—from purple to orange.

Abdication! reminded me a lot of those old stop-action animated Christmas specials—like the one where Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer visits the Snow Miser. It also brought to mind Monty Python’s Flying Circus, sans the English accents and with a decidedly more in-your-face sense of humor. Just like the singer M.I.A. wrote songs about important issues that sound like they’re about nothing, playwright Naya James’ script expertly tackles pertinent philosophical considerations about modern technology with the satirical craftsmanship of a stand-up comedian.

Intermixing low-res 4:3 video on a big ol’ tube television with alternating vignettes on an otherwise empty stage, the perfectly-cast actors (under the direction of Lucia Bellini) had the whole audience cracking up, myself included.

Currently part of Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival, not only do I hope Abdication! reappears with a run of its own, I’d love to see it expand into an ongoing series, perhaps with a different theme each month, but always hearkening back to the days of analog television comedy variety shows.


Andrew Andrews attended Abdication! at Theater for the New City Johnson Theater in Manhattan on Friday, September 6, 2019 @ 6:30pm to write this review.