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Arts and Entertainment

Geek Tragedy: Sci-Fi Drama 'Birthday Present 2050' at Skylight Theatre

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Janet Hoskins, Jossara Jinero, Elyssa Davalos, James Black, Salome Jens, Juan Carlos Cantu, and Cheyenne Hanes in 'Birthday Present 2050.' (Photo by Ed Krieger.)
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Birthday Present 2050 is currently playing at Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. This speculative utopia-gone-dystopia science-fiction piece by Tania Wisbar follows events that unfold at a family gathering in the year 2050. Conflict arises over the pressing need to confront large ethical issues related to privacy, ageism, government, death, human worth, memory, living history, and family ties. Birthday Present 2050 does not feature excellent performances, direction, or writing, but it does have a cool futuristic set, an intriguing premise, diverse cast, and so much camp appeal that it may very well be a cult-classic in the making.

Under the direction of Jonathan Sanger, Birthday Present 2050 is somewhat two-dimensional, although Wisban's script leaves little room for imaginative interpretation. The play borrows stylistically from Greek tragedy with unnaturally poetic, forced monologues and melodramatic emotion where actors to profess feelings rather than let sentiment emerge as part of the action of the play.

That said, the show is funny (unintentionally), quirky, and undeniably enjoyable...as if it is the illicit bastard love-child of John Waters and a 1950s government-issued educational film. Birthday Present 2050 raises interesting ethical questions regarding the value of human life in a quantity verses quality context. The futuristic set, lighting, and multi-media design are cleverly adapted and integrated to interact with the performers.

Notably, a very much appreciated feature of this production of Birthday Present 2050 is the realistic, diverse cast that reflects the actual human make-up of Los Angeles -- a rarity in a metropolis where so many stage actors are white and surgically groomed.

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Birthday Present 2050 is playing through May 22, 2011 at Skylight Theatre. Tickets are available online through Plays411 or via phone at 323-960-7773.