In the course of experiencing the work “Code: Preludes” currently being played out by Theater Ninjas in the lower level of 78th Street Studios you find yourself participating in a series of nine strange interactive exercises set up around the performance area. Prior to the work and at various pauses during the play you roam and explore various “stations” at your leisure. These “education stations” include “binary blackjack” played against a western talking “robot” who at times malfunctions, a room with dangling letters, quotes and clues about Alan Turing (June 23, 1912 – June7, 1954) who was a prominent British mathematician and who is considered the father of theoretical computer science and who in 1952 was prosecuted for homosexuality and chose chemical castration (a year of estrogen injections) rather than face prison. He died in 1954 of cyanide poisoning from either suicide or accidental exposure during a science experiment (it is still being debated).
Next door to the “hanging quotes” room is a recreation of Turing’s Bletchley Park office (the code breaking center of World War II) where you are challenged to solve a number of code ciphers. Outside this room is a large erasable board where various actors draw out various theorems. On the other side of the room across the performance area there are a series of stations that include one room I was unable to get to, a “repair center” of sorts in which you are cautioned not to touch anything without the use of a latex glove.
Next door is a black counter where you are invited to write comments and answer questions in chalk while listening to a man in a lab coat talk while making patterns in a white sand “mini Zen garden” set up in the middle as a large screen TV in the back shows stars and such flashing by. Across from here is a tent of gauze where you can have a “selfie” taken by a very flamboyant man who asks “What kind of cheese are you?” The entrance/exit of this tent lines you up with a typical teenage bedroom (circa 1980) with “Mario Racing” on a small TV, a desktop computer, a record player with a mint “Journey” vinyl album playing (you can listen with headphones), shelves of books and nick-knacks and a bed.
These seemingly unrelated stations at first show no relation to each other or to the subject matter at first. It is only during the production that is played out between the exploratory walks that you realize the connections. That is, the relationship of our society to computers and various machines and how they have infiltrated our lives plus what if they all began to “think” on their own as well as interconnect with each other.
The play itself concerns a company that writes programs. It is currently working on the integration of all machines and computers so that they may “cross think”. The launch date is set for Monday but the woman who is the overall coordinator is balking at releasing of what she feels is an imperfect program. Over the weekend she totally erases all the data and rebuilds the system from scratch, while surviving on Mountain Dew, Slim Jims and various sweets. In the end it is revealed that the program has been sold to…
Sorry, for this information you will just have to come to the show. Just sit back and enjoy the hard work that the actors put into representing the various programmers as well as an appearance of the program itself in the form of a grey suited man in a gas mask. I almost forgot, when you enter, you are invited to pass through various “gates” that best describe you. There is no rhyme or reason; it is just an exercise in getting you to think.
Beefs and Flubs: As in all Theater Ninjas productions there is a nebulous feeling that permeates the work. It is pretty much your own personal interpretation as to what the work means. You may agree with my synopsis or you may not, the important thing is to experience the show and form your own opinions.
Prude Alert: This is a very clean performance unless you are sensitive to random references about homosexuality. There is no hard profanity or sexual innuendos but it is a mind bender that will force you to think. Everything you experience has been carefully plotted to get your reaction.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): Theater Ninjas has a knack about breaking the fourth wall (as well as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd wall as well). “Code: Prelude” is a sensory overload of sight and sound that will leave you pondering on many levels. If you like your theater with a twist as well as a shove towards thinking original thoughts, this is the play for you to see. What at first seem to be random discourses (both verbal and displayed) are all interconnected with great thought and care. It’s a trip.
Code: Preludes Crew
An original Theater Ninjas Experience
Directed & Devised by Jeremy Paul
Starring Ray Caspio, Christina Dennis,
Christopher Hisey, Valerie Kilmer, Val Kozlenko, Ryan
Lucas, Michael Prosen & Sean Seibert
Lighting Design by Benjamin Gantose
Costume Design by Jamie Farkas
Original Composition by Eric Gonzalez
Animation by Kyllea Kerg
Through May 18, 2014
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Mondays
78th Street Studios
1300 West 78th St.
Cleveland, OH 44102
General Admission: $20
Thursdays & Mondays: $10
Under 25/Over 75: $15
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Theater Ninjas is the “Gourmet Food Truck” of Cleveland Theater who travel from venue to venue (sometimes appearing in non-traditional locations) in order to bring a fresh look to the stories they wish to tell by creating fascinating worlds of theater where none existed before. Theater Ninjas mission is to always experiment and rethink what theater can be in regards to entertainment, art and out-of-the-ordinary experiences.