A 60-Minute History of Humankind | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A 60-Minute History of Humankind


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A 60-Minute History of Humankind, Neo-Futurists. The title may suggest the Reduced Shakespeare Company's reliable brand of sophomoric pastiche. But writer-director Andy Bayiates deserves credit for choosing a more challenging path through the bloody thickets of human history.

In this prime-time Neo-Futurist offering, Bayiates and choreographer Genevra Gallo represent Homo sapiens as perpetually caught between God and mammon. Some moments along the way sag, and some relevant material is left out even by the show's own ridiculous standards of abridgment (Bayiates allowed himself a generous two hours in last year's 43 Plays for 43 Presidents). Africa in particular is given short shrift, but perhaps that's intentional--a commentary on how little attention Westerners pay to the continent when they're not in pillage mode. And the clever physical metaphors of Gallo's contributions and John Randle's set, which features a dizzying array of cubbyholes and sliding doors, help lift the less engaging sequences. In one memorable scene, the five actors skillfully manipulate furled and unfurled paper fans to illustrate the rigidity of Confucianism and the fluidity of the Tao.

Despite occasional shortfalls in energy, the show ends with a powerful, sharp rebuke to globalization, which has failed to eradicate the gap between East and West and haves and have-nots. Hollow laughter revealed a wholly appropriate sense of discomfort despite the shtick.

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