Ysentia Credit: courtesy the Runaways Lab Theatre

In an overheated black box above the streets of Logan Square, the Runaways
Lab Theatre presents Ysentia and The Adventures of Astroman, two
short plays by Dan Mozurkewich with near-identical themes: the decline of the universe and the rise
of a protagonist who may, though neither intrinsically gifted nor
particularly driven, save us all.

In Ysentia, a misfit machine made of titanium roams the galaxy in
search of a new home. Through encounters with strangers, represented by
elegantly cut shadow puppets, Ysentia is told that she has been “chosen for
a mission,” one that will not be revealed “before the final hour.” Spoiler:
it is not revealed. The somewhat less hackneyed Adventures of Astroman offers more of everything—more peril, more
irony, more dialogue, more characters, more disturbing references to the
salubrious effects of drinking milk—as it presents the bleak picture of a
world no one really cares to redeem under threat of destruction (or is it
mercy?) by the sneering Dr. Kathleen Robotica. The mysterious Astroman
might be the hero we need, or maybe he just plays him on TV. His estranged
sidekicks, pot-smoking Nintendo freak Lamont and stuttering, suicidal
has-been Doughy Dick, offer an uninspiring streak of realism.

Though gamely acted by a committed ensemble, both plays are heavy on
exposition and light on dramatic tension created by the characters or
scenario. Indeed, the world is ending. With sharper focus on the catatonia
of terrestrial ennui than the fantasy of celestial potential, it is
difficult to care.   v