Our long national nightmare isn’t over. It’s barely begun. That’s the dystopic message of Dan Giles’s play, now in a world premiere at First Floor Theater. As reflected in the mirrored walls of William Boles’s set, with Claire Chrzan’s lighting and Eric Backus’s sound creating a disco hellscape environment, we’re through the looking glass of Trumpian times. Do we throw down for resistance, or do we game the system for our own benefit?
That’s the dilemma facing fiction-writer-turned-adman Gary (Scott Shimizu) and his spouse, Ben (Collin Quinn Rice), an elementary schoolteacher who uses nonbinary pronouns and whose acts of defiance range from wearing a dress to class to fighting a MAGA parent. Gary’s subconscious punishes him for selling out with dreams of working as a beleaguered assistant/boy toy to the vice president. These are only slightly more disturbing than his waking-life encounters with Tom (an eerily deadpan Gage Wallace), the client whose factory-farmed bacon allows Gary to strike gold with the catchphrase “It’s the Sizzle.”
Giles’s script and Hutch Pimentel’s fearless direction trace the characters’ journey from existential dread to rationalization. (Rice’s Ben abandons their activist instincts for the safer realm of corporate philanthropy.) Wallace and Rice take turns as the bad-dream Pence, with the latter nailing a dance interlude choreographed by Breon Arzell.
Tom tells a story about pigs who get smarter the more they’re abused—who still turn on each other. Giles gives us Orwell by way of David Lynch, and the results are electrifying. v