D.O.A.: A Primer for the Afterlife
Tribe Theatre, 510 NW Glisan, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Sept. 17, $10-12
It's not exactly improv, but there was never really a script for D.O.A. either. The Box Ensemble, a "physical theater company primarily interested in creating entertaining theater," essentially made it up as they went. In its infancy, D.O.A was to be based on Pandora's Box, but digressed/evolved into an unexpected form. That's not to say that all sorts of evils aren't unleashed, however.
The play begins in a holding chamber of sorts, immediately after the deaths of five unrelated (so far) characters. The audience is nonplussed as the just-arrived characters: a high society maven, a motivational speaker, a yoga instructor, a 16-year-old wallflower, and a mathematics professor. Through wacky musical numbers, "hallucinations," and intermittent dramatic scenes, the characters' lives, deaths, and personality traits are revealed. Also revealed is the wide range of talent each actor has. Thankfully, none of the players tries to outshine the others—they all seem content to work as an ensemble.
The intercalary "hallucinations" of the play are the highlights, expressing a high level of comedic originality and dramatic revelations. The math professor's segment involves a game show where the panelists include Johannes Kepler, Nikola Tesla, and his own mother. The impending shame amidst the hilarity here is tangible. This looming humiliation is also present in the inspired bit where the wallflower is joined, then disparaged, by her stuffed animals. Her unicorn screams, before attacking her, "You left me in the basement—then it flooded!"
The "writing" of D.O.A. could use some dusting. The yoga's instructor's segment, for instance, seemed unfinished and at times the show's message was a bit ungainly. But, unless you're a theater critic, who gives a fuck? The actors are good actors—definitely not writers—and execute an impressive performance, especially considering most of the production was DIY with no budget whatsoever. The Box strives to create "entertaining theater" and this they pull off swimmingly. Then again, I'm always going to recommend highly any performance that mentions BOTH Craftmatic beds AND Bea Arthur.