THE PUPPET’S YAWN, On the Make Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. In his new play, Ted May attempts to create a futuristic, quasi-Orwellian universe. In “the last global village,” emotionally comatose citizens stagger about in vacant bliss under constant surveillance by the government’s monitors. No one can read or write except a cloned government worker named Michael who spends every day in a cage reading the world’s few remaining books to the gathered throngs. When a stranger named Zsofi wanders into town and discovers that the pages of Michael’s books are blank, the government’s mind-controlling hoax begins to unravel.

Unfortunately, so does the play. May has produced isolated snapshots of a totalitarian regime but not the big picture. Unlike George Orwell in 1984–which this story closely resembles–May never makes it clear why the government works so hard to domesticate its citizens or why the absence of books is critical to its scheme. And the torrid forbidden love affair between Michael and Zsofi, which is meant to give the play its emotional core, seems perfunctory since neither character has much depth.

As The Puppet’s Yawn progresses, it moves from mere confusion to opacity: May brings several dead characters back to life, indulges in a long discussion of superstring theory, and has Zsofi perform a Liza Minnelli-esque torch song in Bulgarian while she’s invisible. A little clarity would have gone a long way here. –Justin Hayford