Anyone who’s seen The Infinite Wrench in person at the Neo-Futurarium in Andersonville knows that the Neo-Futurists are nimble. Performing 30 original plays in 60 short minutes involves an astonishing number of set and costume changes, not to mention balletic stage crosses. When the pandemic hit, the company made a graceful pirouette to online-only. Longtime fans, my spouse and I subscribed immediately to their Patreon for The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral, and now I can attest that the Neos are equally agile remotely.
They offer five weekly-subscription levels, from the Elbow Bump ($3) to the Extended, Almost Uncomfortable Hug ($100). Subscribe, and on Sunday night you’ll receive a link to that week’s show. As with any savvy online subscription system, each tier comes with an increasing level of perks, ranging from an early sneak peek at titles for that week’s world premieres up to a custom play written by an ensemble member about a subject of your choice. For my money (the $9 Casual Embrace level), the Neo-Futurists are the Chicago theater company that’s come up with the most resourceful and engaging answer to the question of how to keep a theater’s doors metaphorically open.
Take Connor Shishita Pickett’s hilariously obscene “Song for Landlords,” which includes snappy cuts of him and the other Neos singing along in their respective apartments, gesturing to repairs their landlords are evidently refusing to make. Or take Jasmine Henri Jordan’s baroquely titled To the Black Teenager (Running Down Michigan Avenue With a Gucci Bag Under His Shirt After Someone Threw a Rock Through the Window of the Gucci Downtown During the First Day of Protesting in Chicago), a spoken-word piece whose power is enhanced, not diminished, by being delivered from a floral living room sofa.
That such intimacy feels like an asset and not a compromise aligns nicely with the troupe’s new tagline: “Always in contact, never contagious.”
▶ A link to each week’s new show is emailed to subscribers on Sunday at 8 p.m.