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The Neo-Futurists' I Am A Camera Is Neo-Futuristic

By Julienne Bilker in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 17, 2010 9:30PM

production photo by Greg Allen
Whenever we venture out to the Neo-Futurarium for the long-running - but always changing - Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, we can be certain of just two things: whether the pieces we see are intellectual, poetic, incredibly silly or politically charged, the performers will never pretend the audience isn't there, and every piece will be completely honest. When a cast member tells a story about her/himself, chances are it actually happened. We've seen some people get quite uncomfortable with this, not knowing what to make of such personal performances, both in proximity and story. If you're one of those people, you probably won't like I Am A Camera. If, like us, you find the Neo-Futurist style to be exciting, often cathartic and always refreshing, we think you will, even if it feels a bit drawn-out.

At the beginning of the show, the two performers (Caitlin Stainken and Jeremy Sher, who play themselves) go through a familiar ritual, one after the other. A voice says, "Smile!" and they oblige. For an almost-obscene amount of time, they painfully keep up what become exaggerated expressions in attempts to maintain their camera-ready selves. The versions of Caitlin and Jeremy that appear in their developed photographs won't be real representations of who they are - an idea underscored by Mission of Burma's "This Is Not A Photograph" playing throughout their awkward photo sessions. Thus begins an experiment that explores the question of what exactly a photo conveys. Emphasis on experiment.

In one scene, the two tell stories about themselves while wearing cardboard boxes over their heads, onto which are projected videos of their heads. Yes, you read that right. In our favorite, they interview each other while sitting behind a desk cluttered with photographs. For a few minutes, one asks a question and the other answers by choosing a photo off the desk...then for a few minutes, one asks a question by showing a photo and the other answers verbally...then for a few minutes, they just speak in photos. If that sentence errs on the side of run-on, you've discovered our problem with the show. We were engaged by each section of the experiment, at least initially - but every bit lasted too long. Much like with TMLMTBGB, some ideas work better than others, but unlike with TMLMTBGB, there is no urgency.

That being said, with a running time of about an hour and a healthy dose of engaging storytelling, we couldn't get too restless. Director (and Neo-Futurist Founder) Greg Allen uses this show to play with perspective in almost all senses of the word, and we like watching people play.

I Am A Camera, through March 13. Tickets $10 (students/seniors)/$15/pay-what-you-can on Thursdays, The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, 773-275-5255.