Disney World becomes the root of all evil in Available Light Theatre’s new stage adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s cult sci-fi novel “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,” running through May 12 in Studio Two of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street, Columbus.
Jump ahead to the 22nd century and according to Doctorow age is merely a number and death a choice one simply makes once all is accomplished or you’re simply done trying. Money is now whuffie (a vague concept left up to the audience for interpretation); and people are walking computers, making telepathic phone calls with the tap of the temple and projecting thoughts and information onto the air directly from the retina.
Drew Eberly stars as Julius, an engineer living and working in Disney World, well past 100 years old. Julius is “murdered” and after “rebooting” (dying is simply a construct that can be remedied by cloning and transference of data) nearly goes insane trying to prove the possible conspiracy behind his third death.
Julius’ long-lost best friend, Dan (Ian Short) returns only to call him crazy while conspiring behind his back, and he’s also cheating with Julius’ girlfriend, Lil (Acacia Duncan). From Julius’ perspective, the future sucks. Which may be a part of the writer’s overall thesis.
It’s pretty clear that Doctorow has traded George Orwell’s Big Brother for technology as the evil that will take control of the future. Not only will it dictate our lives but we will become the computers we’ve come to depend on.
Director Matt Slaybaugh transforms Studio Two of the Vern Riffe Center into a futuristic oasis and creatively intertwines audio visuals with the action on stage. Three LCD screens, one backdrop sized is placed center stage and two smaller screens flank each side of the theater, display flashbacks, future-esque Disney World landscapes and efficiently signal the passing days.
The Available Light cast is also in rare form. It was refreshing to see oft-unused Eberly in the leading role. He perfectly parlays Julius’ paranoia and heartbreak over the changing times and the betrayal by his loved ones. Duncan embodies the flighty youth and vulnerability of Lil, while Short showcases his own vulnerability as a man at the end of his rope, contemplating “deadhead” (the future’s solution to assisted suicide). Michelle G. Schroeder is also diabolically delicious as Debra, a forward-thinking businesswoman who only sees Julius as a threat to progress.
Available Light is typically at its best when they’re putting their special twist on literature or social woes, and “Magic Kingdom” is no exception. So do yourself a favor and take a trip to the 22nd century, it’s definitely worth the whuffie.
Available Light Theatre’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” runs through May 12 in Studio Two of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street, Columbus. Tickets are $20 in advance or on their popular Pay What You Want System at the door. For more information call 614-558-7408 or visit avltheatre.com.