A romp back to the futurists

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      Short plays by various writers. Directed by Susan Bertoia and Gerald Vanderwoude. Coproduced by BellaLuna and Theatre at UBC. At the Frederic Wood Theatre on Saturday, May 31. Continues until June 7

      I felt like I was getting slapped around—in the friendliest possible way—and I really enjoyed myself.

      Futuristi includes 23 short, sharp, and often funny works. Many of them are drawn from the repertoire of the Italian futurists, including poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti; others are homages written by local artists Susan Bertoia, Gerald Vanderwoude, and Stefano Giulianetti.

      In case you’re wondering, Italian futurism was a movement that ran from about 1909 to 1939. It embraced the chaos of modernity. The Futurist Manifesto proclaims: “We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.” All poetry was to be a violent attack. Theatre was to be illogical and to assault the nerves.

      This evening assaults the nerves all right, using a freewheeling artistic vocabulary. Many of the scenes are played in an intensely emotional comic style that might be called Italian camp. In one of these, a man moans to his mother about his injured arm and leg. She commiserates and slaps him on the head, the doctor arrives and inhales his own smelling salts, then the patient furiously accuses a patron in the front row of murdering his brother. Later, intermission is announced, but doesn’t come.

      In a deliberately grainy video, a dog pulls a cart that is miked, so we hear the cart going over a curb and rattling along the sidewalk. Throughout the evening, composers Louis Chirillo, Martin Ritter, and Farshid Samandari provide an excellent recorded soundtrack that is sometimes as organic as a baby’s gurgle but is more often rhythmically, screechingly mechanical.

      Susan Bertoia performs a dance with a vacuum cleaner. In another movement piece, two servants frantically rearrange chairs, stools, and table settings for guests who never arrive.

      In its love of the absurd, the futurist movement presaged writers such as Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, and Harold Pinter.

      Its contribution is celebrated here with style. Directed by Bertoia and Vanderwoude, cast members Bertoia, Giulianetti, Marco Soriano, and Beverly Bardal deliver particularly strong performances that are as bold as those in silent film.

      Act One goes on about 10 minutes too long. Act Two is exactly the right length.