Theater Review (NYC): IXOMIA by Eric Sanders

IXOMIA: an imaginary town. IXOMIA: an entertainingly odd, and oddly entertaining, play by Eric Sanders, presented as part of the Crown Point Festival.

This cleverly staged, funny work may not be as innovative as it thinks it is, but it’s a lot of fun. In its crude tomfoolery and brightly fake local color, it’s a bit like Spamalot; in absurdity, it suggests Tzara; in spirit it recalls Futurism, which looked forward with a rush to technological and social advancement. “Recalls Futurism” sounds like a strange phrase, but it fits, because the town of Ixomia inhabits a limbo state that feels like a hundred years ago.

After a colorful, computer-generated light show is projected on a white canopy above the audience, an ensemble cast takes the stage to introduce us, in a quick succession of scenes, to an assortment of townspeople preparing for their first direct elections. But, alas and alack, the devil comes to town, bringing stylized and symbolic death and destruction.

“Liberal media” are hawked as such. A proper gentleman threatens a child-woman named Angel. Irish, Jewish, and Chinese stereotypes are flagrantly celebrated. A charismatic politician falls to his death. The story, such as it is, suggests a political allegory, but at heart it seems only glancingly political. Mostly it’s dreamlike. Bits of reality collide with absurdities. The former make the characters interesting; the latter make us laugh, as does the persistent scatological and sexual humor.

An onstage narrator intones stage directions like “As Satta [sp?] drowns, music from the inside of an oak tree plays,” and “[He] goes to follow, but freezes, and shatters into 1000 pieces.” “Can you see in the dark?” asks Deke, the hapless election worker whom the lascivious devil has targeted. “Only when it’s lit from behind,” she replies. “I love it from behind.”

Sparkplug performances, fizzy lighting and staging, and rich sound design make the show a treat for the eye and ear. (The only technical flaw was that early on, the music cues occasionally drowned out the dialogue.) The innovative set consists mostly of a room-sized structure in the shape of a church, which is pushed around the stage to form varied rooms and houses as needed, both interiors and exteriors.

Each night of the Festival features not just a theatrical work but short films and live music as well. So for your money you get diverse stimulation, and even some Bitcoin. What is Bitcoin, you may be asking yourself? It’s an alternative payment form, kind of like digital cash, that they accept. And you get to spend an evening at the Abrons Art Center, which is at the historic Henry Street Settlement. It’s worth a trip to the deep Lower East Side just for the building.

IXOMIA runs through November 10, but not every day, so check the schedule. The Festival itself runs through November 17.