In a fictional land of the future created by playwright Neil McGowan in his astonishing new play, Disposable Necessities, the wealthy can dispose of their bodies and occupy new ones through a company that has developed the ability to extract, at enormous cost, the conscious soul of a person and put it into whatever body they choose to buy. So, for example, the old can refresh themselves with young bodies. A woman can become a man, and vice versa. They can change bodies for the sport of it. They can do this multiple times, theoretically forever.
Disposable Necessities is in essence a serio-comic family drama. Daniel Totten (Darrett Sanders) is a spent novelist past his prime. He had an impressive body of work, but nowadays doesn’t pick up his pen. He’s morose. His wife, Alice (Billy Flynn) has downloaded her essence into the handsome thirty-something body of a man, known outside the family as Al, a chairman of the board tycoon. She pushes hard to get her husband to go through the procedure, for reasons that will be revealed later on in the show. Their teen-aged son, Chadwick (Jefferson Reid), unbeknownst to his father, has gone through the thrilling, somewhat popular procedure of jumping out of a helicopter so as to die and get a new body. His body of choice? That of a young African American man who enters the stage in stylish baggy clothes spouting the speech and physicality of a hip-hop, gangsta talking, pimp-rolling stereotype. It is an astonishing performance.
Daniel’s old best friend, Phillip (Claire Blackwelder), enters in his new body, that of an outrageously nubile young woman, a who is enormously proud of her hottie assets, while missing being able to pee standing up.
Standing outside this insanity of body-swapping, the last member of the family to appear is Daniel and Alice’s adult daughter, Dee (Ann Noble in a superb, emotionally intense performance). She is a fifty-year old teacher who is estranged from her family. She is bitter for very good reasons and eschews the whole sick business of body-swapping.
The point here is that this process, restricted to the uber-rich, of shedding bodies and acquiring new ones again and again, makes it theoretically possible to live forever. Where do the bodies come from? Ah, there’s the rub.
Directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, Disposable Necessities is extraordinarily absorbing, often hilarious, and ultimately affecting. It is a family mash-up that is totally unique.
The physical production is excellent with scenic design by David Mauer and lighting by Matt Richter, with assistance by Kaitlin Chang. Sound designer Christopher Moscatiello does his magic once again, and Christine Cover Ferro’s costume design is extraordinary, supporting character, action, place and time, which, according to the program, is Maryland, USA in the year 2095. Projections by Michelle Hanzelova add much to the show. Movement is directed by Myrna Gawryn; Casting director Victoria Hoffman found exactly the right actors. Stage managers Amanda Bierbauer and Ramon Valdez manage the stage with estimable sang-froid. Amanda Bierbauer is also production manager; David Mauer is technical director; and Rayce Lopez is assistant director.
Disposable Necessities, produced by John Perrin Flynn, along with co-producer Amy-Helene Carlson for Rogue Machine Theatre, continues into January, where it will run in repertory with Earthquakes in London, which opens on January 11, 2020. Disposable Necessities is a don’t-miss-it show, so head over to Rogue Machine’s home at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue in Venice.