In a town largely ambivalent to experimental theater, defunkt's latest production, in apparati, is an intellectually engaging work that will reward any audience member willing to pay attention, embrace a little ambiguity, and trust that defunkt hasn't invited you to their theater in order to waste your time.
in apparati was written by defunkt co-founder James Moore, and developed during an open-rehearsal process that allowed community members to watch the show evolve. The process explains why the show feels both timely and appropriate to its audience: This is grim prognostication with a sense of humor—a quirky sensibility that feels right at home in this town.
The dystopic little production takes place in a prison complex of some kind, where two guards monitor a group of four prisoners. The prisoners are detained "in apparati"—that is, each person is forced to wear an "apparatus," a boxy device that confines the torso and resembles a lawn chair gone horribly awry. The Orwellian explanation suggested for their detention is that the state needs to identify internal enemies in order to preserve the status quo. When the four decide to escape, they do so while still wearing their apparati, begging the question of what, exactly, is confining them, and what they think they are escaping from.
The script can be difficult to follow at times, but it's also funny enough that paying attention doesn't feel like work, and the cast does great work across the board. The guards are rendered with good cop/bad cop exactitude by Patrick Wohlmut and JR Wickman, while the prisoners maintain complex attitudes of rebellion and resignation—the four are frequently antagonistic, yet bound together by the lock-stepped choreography imposed by the apparati (human condition, anyone?).
in apparati is cryptic, but hardly inscrutable; an attentive theatergoer willing to apply the old intellectual decoder ring will piece together a complex allegory that raises big questions about self-determination, faith, and free will.