Teeny Travel Takes a Trip
Book and Lyrics by Aaron Ricciardi
A trip you don’t need to take
|Coriolis Theater Company presents|
|Teeny Travel Takes a Trip|
Review by Clint May
Oh Flat Irons, your curse strikes again! I’d call it the ‘Curse of the Heavy-Handed Hipster’ if this wasn’t more like one of those Monty Python feet dropping out of the sky to squash me. Teeny Travel Takes a Trip, the world premiere from Coriolis Theater Company, is a strange blend of dystopian dreck (the Flat Irons’ favorite theme) cribbing from superior sources without adding anything unique. There is—in theory— dark humor, vulgar humor, farce, serious emotion, and some neighborhood-café-hosts-an-open-mic-night music thrown into a blender, and held together with production values on par with those plays you might have done for your parents in the basement when you were twelve.
Somewhere in the middle of this century, America is ruled by a Big Brotherian overlord, and citizens live in a state of “rightness” or “wrongness” depending on their adherence to the Code. Only one man is supposedly allowed to leave the country, Mr. Travel (Paul Krick). His show (it appears to be the only one in existence) is mandatory viewing. He and his co-star Warren (Andrew J. Tardif) “globe-hop” to various locations to showcase how God is punishing all countries but America with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and just being generally not America. Mr. Travel’s neglected wife (Monica Lani) is a shut-in, never leaving her bed, wistfully awaiting her hubby’s once-a-year return. At school, his daughter Teeny Travel (Laura Tatar) is a free-thinker in the land where thought is the spice of wrongness. In her little two-person school (school being so expensive only two can afford it, another way to keep the populace stupid), she has a crush on the only boy in her sight range: the dim-witted sycophant Adonis Perfect (Corey Crew). The room is complete with a Wrongness Alarm (a la the Simpsons “Independent Thought Alarm”).
Poor Teeny has broken so many infractions, she’s been hobbled (a la Vonnegut’s The Handicapper General) with crutches, hearing mufflers, mouth guards, etc. to prevent her from dancing, speaking, or hearing “wrongness.” Thankfully for her love life, some kidnapped immigrants, Pinto (Frankie DiCiaccio) and his mother Consuela (Emily Radke), are assigned to her home as housekeepers despite being of high rank in their home country. Their fresh blood and unindoctrinated incredulity at the America they find themselves in is enough to tear down the walls around the Travels family and expose their reality for the lie it is.
As with most dystopian shows, Teeny relies heavily (and self-consciously) on Orwell, but that’s true of most dystopian fantasies. It’s Mike Judge’s 2006 Idiocracy and the aforementioned concept of the Handicapper General that are most apparently being riffed on. Author Aaron Ricciardi imagines every leftist’s nightmare in an America that has gotten rid of Hawaii and Alaska (to avoid non-contingent travel) and presents us as what we’d be if 100 Sarah Palins were in charge of things 50 years from now. There’s some music interspersed at irregular intervals, but the lyrics and compositions lack imagination, and only Radke has a noteworthy voice. The tone of both they and the production jump around more often than Mr. Travel’s theoretical journeys.
I could forgive it all if it had some of the style and sense of fun that say, Chicago dell’Arte brings to their farces (they would also name a character ‘Adonis Perfect,’ but it’d be funny there). Instead, this is 90 minutes of grueling, overwrought tripe that never let’s us have as much fun as it wants when a character is being beaten with dildos or emotional resonance when two abandoned wives bond in misery.
Unable to decide what wants to be while taking so much from what already is, Teeny is yet another histrionic howl at the Conservatives that I keep encountering at the various spaces in Flat Irons. At the very least I was thankful to have one of the few chairs with a back. My apologies to anyone I might have forced to sit on a bench to view this awkwardly 3-sided staging—there were a lot of sagging backs at the end of that hour and a half that I did not envy.
Teeny Travel Takes a Trip continues through April 13th at Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm. Tickets are $20, and are available through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at CoriolisTheater.org. (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)
Cory Crew (Adonis), Frankie DiCiaccio (Pinto), Sarah Elizabeth Helt (Teacher), Paul Krick (Mr. Travel), Monica Lani (Mrs. Travel), Emily Radke (Consuela), Andrew J. Tardif (Warren), Laura Tatar (Teeny)
behind the scenes