When you hear the phrase “futuristic dystopia where the human race has almost died out, leaving a single human and a civilization of robots,” you probably don’t think “puppets.” But Pointless Theatre Co. did, and so .d0t:: a RotoPlastic Ballet was born. Known for its ability to shatter conventional boundaries between puppetry and other performing arts, Pointless has used a mixture of puppetry, acting, and a live original hip-hop score to craft an entirely new way to tell a story about what the future could hold.
It’s a post-human world. In a future far, far away, robots make up most of the population…with one exception. NAVI, the last living human, uses the Pulse, a kind of rhythmic energy, to keep all of robotkind following the rules of the System. If one robot develops a fault, it is “repurposed” and “recycled”—until a robot called d0t decides not to follow the rules. What begins as a tiny glitch in the system soon threatens the very existence of the world these robots live in.
Navid Azeez, who also wrote the lyrics and composed the music for the show, plays NAVI—a blue-haired, pinstripe-suited remnant of a different time whose sole purpose is to use his energy to keep the System running. And it is Azeez’s apparently limitless energy that drives the show: through the 45 minutes of the performance, he is almost constantly singing and/or rapping, either through NAVI’s Pulse-keeping duties or to illustrate the struggles that NAVI experiences while the world crumbles around him. His only direct communication is with Olive, the voice of the System (voiced by Rachel Menyuk), whose rhythmic statements prod him to do more and more to maintain the order of the universe.
Written by Azeez, Aaron Bliden, Patti Kalil, and Director/Set Designer Matt Reckeweg, the play is a fusion of music, traditional acting, puppetry, and visual art. NAVI looks out at the world through a screen, while tucked safely away in the bowels of the Core building.
Designer Patti Kalil draws from English toy theatre puppetry, representing the factories, houses, and robot denizens as two-dimensional cardboard puppets that move across three levels of flat background. Inspired by Futurist painter Fortunato Depero, the colorful flatness of the puppets and set pieces perfectly represents the neat functionality of this world. Aided by Lauren Joy’s striking projection design that seamlessly meshes with the cardboard set elements, lights by E-hui Woo, costumes by Frank Labovitz, and sound by Mike Winch, the visuals become a powerful medium for telling this story.
With d0t, Pointless Theatre takes you on a musical journey to places you had never imagined. But don’t be fooled by the strangeness of this future—it’s not as far away as you think.
Running Time: 45 minutes, with no intermission.
.d0t:: a RotoPlastic Ballet plays through May 6, 2017, at Pointless Theatre Company, performing at Flashpoint – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online.