Back to the Garden: “Flower in the Machine” @ THE OCHRE HOUSE

Flower in the Machine by Kevin Grammer

Flower in the Machine by Kevin Grammer

Creation is the Buzzword at Matt Posey’s The Ochre House, where collaborator artist Kevin Grammer’s original play Flower In The Machine surprises the audience with a tender, budding love fable that emerges from a grim, robotic, computer-dominated desolation drama. Simple language and sympathetic, intriguing characters ricochet off of a drab, ultra-compartmentalized Orwellian existence. Hope flourishes! Amor omnia vincit!  Ya, baby.

Cozy hardly describes the level of intimacy at The Ochre House. Maybe 50 patrons and a few ultra-skinny musicians or technicians gather in snug proximity to watch the entertainment unfold on a raised platform and in its adjacent nooks and crannies. Reach out and touch the performers (they won’t bite); see beads of sweat gather on their brows. Whether performing Benny Hill-esque bawdry, myth adaptation in absurdum with song and dance routines, visceral drama or its 2012 hit “Perro y Sangre” co-produced with the Dallas Flamenco Festival that just closed at Teatro Latea in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, The Ochre House explores an essential earthy reality with unearthly emotional investment, no matter the production. Like nobody else in the region, y’all.

The flowering of love: Boy (Trent Stephenson) and Girl (Elizabeth Evans)

Boy (Trent Stephenson) and Girl (Elizabeth Evans); set design Matthew Posey; scenic painting Isaac Davies

Flower In the Machine, written and directed by Kevin Grammer, gets to the heart of the matter with immersive immediacy and makes exceptional use of the space. Stultifying limitation becomes unexpected asset in revelation of story and character arc. Scene changes occur on a sparsely furnished upstage revolve, operated by computer-driven robots Ben Bryant and Erin Singleton, reinforcing the play’s environmental Hell: blind and dumb dependence on exclusively mechanized and computerized functionality. Watching the robots control every aspect of existence makes the flesh crawl. Meet the play’s heroine Girl (OH regular Elizabeth Evans) as she awakens from a terrifying nightmare to undergo her morning ablution ritual before heading to work. The robots do everything for her, including brushing her teeth and hair, as humans seem to have lost the will/ capacity for autonomy in this manufactured, grey reality. At “work” Girl gets hooked up to a mind-bending computer wall through special glasses and keyboard-sensitive gloves, along with alcoholic, depressed, perpetually late Man (OH veteran Brian Witkowitcz) and his benumbed nephew Boy (OH regular Trent Stephenson). Supervised by harsh, tyrannical Woman (Carla Parker in her ninth OH production) the three “workers” seem barely aware of one another. Through a chance meeting on a park bench at “break”, tentative human sparks fly between Boy and Girl. At first the colorless, almost sere, quality of their conversation feels harsh and unnatural, until you realize these two young people have never interacted without robot or computer supervision before. Imagine growing up using cell phone acronyms as your sole means of communication. Man eggs them on, adrift in his genial, drunken stupor, with a dark secret to share. Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl to The Machine. Does he win her back, or? See the show. Unexpected delights will warm the cockles of your non-computerized hearts; but no spoiler, moi. It feels darn good to independently step out into Deep Ellum’s hubbub when the show ends, no robot in sight.

Robot (Erin Singleton) watches over Man (Brian Witcowicz) and Boy (Trent Stephenson)

Robot (Erin Singleton) watches over Man (Brian Witcowicz) and Boy (Trent Stephenson)

HALLOWEEN SHOW #1: for the young hipsters! This is the show to see Halloween weekend with yo new hipster love, to hold hands tenderly as you watch it together and exchange soft kisses afterwards at Pizza Lounge or The Meridian.…

Flower In The Machine runs Wednesday through Saturday at a very adult 8:15pm though November 15. TICKETS: 214-826-6273

825 Exposition Avenue Dallas TX 75226

 This techie team tears it up: choreography by Mitchell Parrick; original music by Trey Pendergrass; set design by Matthew Posey; scenic painting and robot design by Isaac Davies; stage management by Jeff Keddy.

TOP PHOTO: L TO R — Robot (Ben Bryant), Woman (Carla Parker), Robot (Erin Singleton), Girl  (Elizabeth Evans)

Can’t stop humming this: “We are stardust. We are golden. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden….” WOODSTOCK, by Joni Mitchell

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