Force of Nature Productions is one of the more promising theatrical outfits to pop up on the Los Angeles theatre scene in recent years. With their new production, Tales From Tomorrow, the ensemble pulls together a collection of Serling-esque stories that poke fun or fright at the future in beguiling ways that are nothing if not original and entertaining. The hour long show, played out in 5 separate short plays, range from the comedic, the dramatic, the tragic, and the absurd. Each played with varying levels of effectiveness.
A Shot in the Dark
Written By Kelly Copeland Directed by Chris Campbell
A shot in the dark opens in an office of a high powered executive and his adoring staff on Christmas Eve. The Exec (Jahel Corban Caldera) holds a beautifully wrapped gift and nervously paces while making small talk with his assistants played by Melissa Muñoz and Sasha Snow. They chat about his gift decision and vaguely question if it’s the right choice. What could be in the box? Who is it for?
This particular story while strong, was the weakest of the set and a nice way to open the show. It gave a clear idea of the tone and the stories to come yet didn’t overpromise. The performances were adequate, yet there was just a little bit of wobblyness that soon got shaken off.
Hubris and Heroism
Written By Chris Campbell Directed by Sebastian Muñoz
Chris Campbell plays opposite director Sebastian Muñoz in a story about an awkward family reunion, the family business, and the fate of them both. The two men argue vaguely over how to handle the future direction of the family business. One hasn’t touched it in years yet reaps the benefits, the other has toiled away with exacting standards.
Let’s just start off by saying that Campbell was one of the major standouts of the entire show. In this piece, which he wrote, he goes toe to toe with director Muñozs’ already formidable presence and comes out just fine. The two actors have a particular chemistry that works. One is loose, has a swagger. One has played by the rules and is uptight despite his deepest desires. A nice follow up to the amuse-bouche that opened the show.
Home for Dinner
Written By Robert J. Watson Directed by Andy Shultz
Another nice piece by writer Chris Campbell, Home For Dinner features the superb Jennifer Novac Chun as a possibly delusional mother, days after her son’s untimely death. The play opens with Chun setting the dinner table in preparation for dinner with her son and husband as he arrives home with their son’s ashes. Yeah, this one is dark. But strangely fantastical as they begin speaking to their supposedly dead son on his old cell phone. He promises he is on the way. Then the doorbell rings.
Theatre is an organic, living thing that yields unexpected, sometimes organically beautiful results. Here we have a mixture of perfect choices with awkward ones that never seem to mesh yet are still enjoyable. There is the decision to use voice over for the son’s voice on the phone played by Benjamin Fuller. While he does a fine job, it is jarring and almost entirely unnecessary. Contrarily, Jennifer Novac Chun’s powerhouse performance in this particular play proves, once again, that she is an actor capable of tremendous range. Her doddering mother flits about comically in the beginning of the story, melting away to a pile pf blubbering pathos that practically pulls the tears from your eye sockets by the close of curtain. A nice piece of work.
Written By Thomas J. Misuraca Directed by Sebastian Muñoz
Here we play a game of “Who’s the robot? ” in Thomas J Misuraca’s whacky tale of servant robots gone wild. The play begins with two socialites blathering endlessly about their cushy lives as their robot manservant dusts the room. It soon becomes apparent that nothing is what it seems and the tables are turned again, and again, and again. To say much more would be to yank the punchline from the piece. Suffice it to say, this was an entertaining confectionary piece of fluff that was the perfect chaser to Home For Dinner.
Director Muñoz is right at home working his lighthearted, playful touch on this comedic piece. He knows how to guide the actors to play to the absurd, the humorous, and the ridiculous. While silly, the short play is amusing enough to keep the audience guessing and chuckling.
Rip and Vanna Winkle
Written By Tom Jones Directed by Corey Chapell
Rip and Vanna Winkle is certainly the most ambitious piece of the bunch focusing on an existential conundrum that begs the question, ‘Who are we and why are we here?’. Benjamin fuller plays Rip, a man who has just been roused from a long coma. It is now “The Future” and medicine has finally caught up to heal what ailed him in his previous time period. But at what cost?
Jennifer Novak Chun plays the scientist who has resuscitated Rip from his slumber as Monet Hendricks adequately plays Rip’s wife from the past. Things get pretty meta in this piece and director Corey Chapell is able to help keep the heady script by Tom Jones on the rails even when it gets a little crazy. The piece is grounded by Fuller’s stable performance that plays as our guide through his discovery of his situation.
Certainly worth the time to see, Tales From Tomorrow is a mixed bag of stunning performances and writing, with technical constraints and stylistic choices. Chris Campbell is a revelation on the stage and Jennifer Novak Chun proves once again that she can singlehandedly raise the level of an entire show with her presence alone. It’s also wonderful to see Muñoz get silly and comical with his directorial work while cutting his teeth on more serious acting. Overall, Tales From Tomorrow is an adequate if not fully compelling night at the theatre.
“Tales From Tomorrow”
Sundays April 2 – 9 – 23 – 30 @ 7:00PM
No Show on Easter