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Move Over Brave New World, Here Comes A New World War

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A New World War: 14 Scenes from a Possible Future is another study in dystopia, with playwright Rita Valencia taking cues from Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. While we've seen all this doom and gloom before, it's Valencia's take on the futuristic parable that saves us from cliché hell.

The play focuses the Antar (Niamh McCormally), a woman who's signed a long, long-term contract with a company that provides cyborg companionship. But now a few years later, Antar's suffering from buyer's remorse. She wants out of the relationship, just as badly as her cyborg Gauloise (Jack Littman) yearns to be human. He even dabbles in a creative writing class to get there. (Should we just call him "Data?")

Complicating matters is the new war taking place outside of their apartment with an unnamed enemy. Galoise warns Antar about the danger of venturing out, but she doesn't believe him. She wants out. Badly. So she poisons her mate and meets the all-to-human enemy: "Charly" (who’s not Vietnamese, but looks like a shorter, scruffier Brad Pitt.) Of this dangerous opponent, she says, "He's the enemy and he's hot." Complicating their budding new relationship is "Mother-in-Law” – a representative from the cyborg company, who no-so-gently reminds her of the contract with Gauloise.

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Guy Zimmerman’s direction and the intentional disjointedness of the scenes keeps the play moving briskly. The sparse set emanates the coldness and inhumanness of a future America. But what really didn’t fit into the whole future was the cast’s wardrobe that seemed like a bad ‘80s flashback. Antar was channeling her inner Cyndi Lauper while the men’s suspenders only reminded us of Mork from Ork. (What? No more Banana Republics in the mid-21st century?)

The production's acting was good -- Littman's Gauloise was the standout performance as a bitter humanoid wannabe (and he's only a high school senior). But, we didn't feel that leap of faith that moved Antar from her sheltered life and the reasons behind wanting more from her own life. And we also didn't quite fully understand the importance of her relationship with Charly (Andy Hopper).

While some scenes strike familiar themes, it's Valencia's crisp writing that keeps things fresh. The play is tinged with humor as she skewers the materialism of modern American society. (We find out that Antar is a best-selling author - then we're told the title: "How to Throw an Awesome Party.") And our government's penchant for war doesn't go unnoticed either. Gauloise, for all his faults, speaks no truer line in the play than this: "Ordinary folk are the last to know, but the first to be sacrificed."

A New World War runs until May 12.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 7 PM

The Stephanie Feury Studio
5636 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles
Tickets: $20
(213) 625-1766 or reservations@paduaplaywrights.net