nytheatre.com review by Robert Attenweiler
July 20, 2008
The end of civilization as we know it has to begin with something. So why not with the theft of a 10-speed bicycle? If you're a little skeptical, you have a right to be. The absurdity is as thick as the social commentary is thin in Direct Current and Walking Shadow's production of John Heimbuch's play 10-Speed Revolution, currently appearing as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival.
Jake (Alex Demers), Max (Jordan Kamp), and Anna (Bonnie Sherman) are three self-described hipsters living together in Minneapolis. The three roommates call themselves "The Collective" and have all the postures of the young modern disenfranchised: they read Nietzsche, listen to punk music, publish anti-establishment 'zines, and, yes, even eat non-dairy ice cream. When their shared 10-speed bicycle gets stolen, the friends plunge into a beer-fueled vandalism spree, where they "free" more than 40,000 bicycles from their shackles.
The play's many twists and turns are too numerous to be satisfyingly listed. But, by the end, the trio has successfully battled the local authorities, the menace of the bicycle lock manufacturers, and come into possession of a thermo-nuclear device.
While it's difficult to have much sympathy for these characters, who never really have a good reason for destroying Minneapolis as we know it, Kamp's Max is goofy and disarming enough to make us side, at least, with him. The play seems aimed in the direction of camp satire, but is never funny enough—or pointed enough with its critiques of society—to really work. Nathan Lemoine directs, as well as staying on-stage to play the role of The Roadie.
One thing about this production that I genuinely appreciate: it is green theater. I know you don't hear that term tossed around very often, but it's worth starting the discussion. The program notes that "this production [is] made from 90% recycled junk." The sustainability and wastefulness of theatrical productions, to my knowledge, has flown well below the radar to this point. So, for that, thank you, 10-Speed Revolution.
However, "recycled junk," in this case, too often just looks junky. The lighting design is a series of lamps and bulbs that are controlled onstage by Lemoine. This creates some nice looking moments, but more often takes the audience out of the story by dangling the play's strings too obviously in front of our faces. Choices like keeping Lemoine onstage to audibly direct the actors during scene changes and flip the different lights on and off, seem pointed toward reminding the audience that they're watching a construction. But, these choices are rarely employed with much precision. The effect, unfortunately, feels sloppy rather than "punk."