The Infinite Wrench

First-time performer "T" sings an opera while dancing with a broom as long-time Neo-Futurist Connor holds as card that reads "Also I’m Probably Dying" during The Infinite Wrench at the Kraine Theater.

By Andrew Andrews

Back in December, we reviewed the New York Neo-Futurist’s long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, only to learn a few weeks later that the run was finally coming to an end. Rumors abound, but the bottom line is that the NY Neos have replaced TMLMTBGB with a new show they call The Infinite Wrench, so we found our way back to the Kraine Theater on East 4th to see how much has changed from the beloved TML.

And the answer is... not much, actually. When you show up at the Kraine and approach the ticket booth, you’re still asked whether you purchased advanced tickets. If yes, you’re still given a gold coin to grant you priority access at the door. If no, you’re still given a plastic figure and told to join the line that works its way up the narrow staircase (with a few douchebags milling around at the bottom to skip the line when it starts to move). When the line does move, you still roll a die to determine what your ticket price will be (still $13 plus the number you roll), and when you enter the house you’re still asked a question and handed a name tag that reflects your answer. And you’re still presented with a “menu” (program) that lists the thirty short plays that the Neos will attempt to present that evening in 60 minutes or less, in an order determined by shouts from the audience when a cast member yells “curtain!” at the end of every vignette.

On stage, you’ll still see thirty numbered sheets of paper hanging from a clothesline—although this time, said sheets of paper also included letters that spelled out a phrase which probably changes every week. What’s different, though, is that hanging from the middle will be an extra sheet labeled “1/2” that can be called out like the others—only this one pauses the clock for a “half time” show by a guest performer (this week, singer Ellyn Heald with a fun ukulele mashup of No Diggity and Scarborough Fair). A Neo still grabs the number they hear after “curtain” is called, and still reads the title for that number so the rest of the cast can prepare it. And a Neo still calls the show with “Go!,” kicking the performance into action.

As always, some of the thirty scripts have been performed before, and others are “world premieres” so the show is always different every time. By the looks of things, all of the pieces currently on the menu have world premiered in the weeks since the name change, which means that despite the very similar format, The Infinite Wrench really is an “all new show” compared to its predecessor, the same way the nightly news is an all new show every day.

Just like the review of TMLMTBGB, writing something about every one of the thirty pieces we saw would result in a TL;DR situation that nobody wants to endure, but highlights from tonight’s menu included Oddfellows: go get me an ice cream sandwich (They close at 11, so call this play EARLY for optimal quality), in which a Neo talked about ice cream while soliciting one-dollar donations from the audience, then convinced another audience member to run to the store down the street and purchase an ice cream sandwich for everyone willing to share it. Then there was Alex & Connor (have been in this company together for two years but have never actually talked to each other on stage. Recently, Connor asked Alex what kind of play Alex would want Connor to write for him and Alex said he wanted a play where he would be forced to be vulnerable—citing how Connor seems to be able to be vulnerable so easily.) For a few tense minutes, Connor asked Alex a series of personal questions, and Alex had to choose between answering the question or sharing chili peppers that increased in hotness from Jalapeño to Serrano to Habenero. Ultimately, both crew members had to leave the stage in search of something to quench their burning mouths (and, eventually, stomachs). Avant-garde Jeopardy! played out exactly like it sounds: hilariously! In Adorable Doll Wants Answers—and she Wants Them NOW, a tiny (and yes, adorable) baby doll sat on a stool in a spotlight on stage as its ventriloquized voice spoke ominously to the audience through the sound system. And in Opera, distilled (shown), a first-timer named “T” sang a melodramatic opera in repetitive, simple English as Connor held up subtitles (also in English!).

As is the magic of Neo-Futurism, not much has changed since TML and everything has changed since TML—which means this show is every bit as good as its predecessor because it essentially is its predecessor. Our only complaint, then (besides the aforementioned line-skipping douchebags) is that we honestly expected an all-new interpretation of the Neo-Futurists mantra along the lines of (but completely different from) the limited-run production The Great American Drama. We hope, then, that the NY Neos will use The Infinite Wrench in new and novel ways until it cranks out a show that’s notably different from Too Much Light without losing any of its magic. But don’t let that stop you from checking out the show in the meantime, because the magic is as good as ever, and as the Neos say, “if you’ve seen the show once, you’ve seen the show once.”

5

Andrew Andrews attended The Infinite Wrench at Kraine Theater in New York on Saturday, April 1, 2017 @ 10:30pm to write this review.