Glitchy Cubist Family Dynamics

A #HaikuReview of Loading Dock Theatre’s new production, The Dudleys, by LA Markuson

like sugared spoonfulls
but every fragile cube
is bright nostalgia

Last night I went to HERE Arts Center to see something truly innovative; I can only assume this is not a specimen of a whole genre of 8-bit video game integrated live theater. A fresh take on Mormon family living, which so intrigues us, where the intricate connections and deepest feelings of each family member are highlighted, not distracted, by the setting of an elaborate old school video game.

Even if the acting was nothing special, and the original score was not fantastic, and the plot was uninteresting, it would still be worth seeing just for the stunning visual effects of live actors interacting with a 2-D world of animated cubes. But, astoundingly, the acting, music, and plot all stood their ground next to the primary-colored landscape, and somewhere gelled perfectly.

when two dimensions
suddenly are seen to hold
an infinite depth

Three siblings and their mother grapple to deal with the untimely death of their father, unearthing a strangely surreal family history that at once feels extremely common and relatable, but also somehow exotic and special. Perhaps it’s the dance numbers.

As we are sucked into the fighting and confusion and history of the family, the story is punctuated by mesmerizing Mario Brothers-style chase scenes and dance numbers that honestly defy written description. Original Chiptune music by Leegrid Stevens deserves serious praise — I am not joking when I say I would buy the soundtrack. And the choreography from Melinda Rebman is the kind of movement you want to go home and try out in front of the mirror.

not that i would though —
i mean, how embarrassing —
maybe just one move.

The play is not perfect. The first act should be 20 minutes shorter. My companion felt that the ending was almost too perfect. But I ate it up like a horse being given a jewel-tone sugar cube.

A review of the piece would not be complete without giving special recognition to a few of the actors. The whole family and ensemble were lovely and engaging in their own ways (the crazed aunt is a special treat from Amy Bizjak and the quirky versatility of Ariel Estrada enlivens many roles) but the two brothers at the center of the story, played by Erik Kochenberger and Scott Thomas, were the winners of the night for me. Their fraught relationship and campy fight scenes were riveting, and the perfectly choreographed glee of their dance numbers was… worthy of YouTube virality. I mean, wow. Also worth a special note is Erin Treadway, who played the grieving widow, who shows alternating tenderness, anger, and sumptuously dark humor in turn.

when the game goes dark
we remember our one life
chipped from a shared block

Get tickets and more information here.

Much love.