The first time I heard about Chicago’s Neo-Futurists was seven years ago, in a room full of playwrights, as an intern at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Neo’s now-closed production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind subsequently became my first Chicago Theatre-going experience as a newly-minted resident in 2016. Returning over the years to see multiple iterations of The Infinite Wrench, my favorite skit of all time was by Ensemble Member Leah Urzendowski, who kicked, punched, and stomped on a diagram of a vulva; a disturbingly accurate depiction of what it felt like to bike the gravel section of Clark Street between Foster and Montrose when it was under construction pre-pandemic. I have never laughed so hard in my life. While the Neo-Futurarium is the first spot I think of to introduce new friends and out-of-town visitors to the best-of Chicago Theatre, The Neofuturists Sell Out was my first time seeing a ‘prime-time’ show.
Hilarious and poignant as ever, the Neo-Futurists Sell Out is a skit-filled hour of entertainment with a special focus on capitalism, astutely directed by Lavina Jadhwani. Without the Neo’s typical greetings, menus, and nametags handed out at the door, the four performers instead rolled in chairs and desks on stage to launch straight into the action. But, with no greeting and minimal audience interaction until halfway through the show, this prime-time experience left me missing the performer-to-audience connection that usually drives the Neo’s pacing and energy; the connection that punches up their versed and starkly intimate sense of humor.
Though this show differed from the standard Neo experience, I was nonetheless impressed by the thought-provoking content of this show. Performer/Creators, Connor Shioshita Pickett, Neil Bhandari, Jasmine Henri Jordan, and Deidre Huckabay all have a lot to say about capitalism and complicity, and I hope that some of these skits will be given a shot with a livelier audience in The Infinite Wrench. They explore the pros and cons of the climate crisis. They count their combined possessions which include, half a house, half a condo, and a coin purse that ‘I haven’t had the heart to check in on in a while.’ They ask: What does it really mean to sell out? And they declare: Everyone has blood on their hands.
With a future-hit song ‘What is capitalism anyway?’ the Neo’s music is, surprisingly, the cherry on top that sells this show. I look forward to the day they release an album and will be in the front row for the next iteration of 60 Songs in 60 Minutes.
Pro-tip for future ‘Sell Out’ audience members: Bring a $2 and/or $3 bill and a pen for bonus points.
The Neo-Futurists Sell Out runs until April 22. Masks are required for this production.
Content Warning: Use of strobe and flashing lights.
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CREATED AND PERFORMED BY
Connor Shioshita Pickett
Jasmine Henri Jordan
ASSOCIATE DIRECTED BY
Photo by Anna Gelman, The Neo-Futurists left to right: Connor Shioshita Pickett, Jasmine Henri Jordan, Neil Bhandari, and Deidre Huckabay.