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Theater review: 'Futura' at the Boston Court

October 14, 2010 |  2:00 pm

FUT_A009 From scholarly lecture to futuristic nightmare, “Futura,” Jordan Harrison’s world premiere play at the Boston Court, is an incisive treatment of the effect of electronic media on the human brain that segues into a dark vision of how such media can play into the hands of totalitarian despots.

The first third or so of the play takes the form of a lecture on typography. If that sounds a bit dry, be assured it isn’t. Our lecturer is the Professor (Bonita Friedericy), eminent in the field. She believes that technological innovations have had a progressively deleterious effect on the human brain, darkening passageways linked to higher thought. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the surprisingly eventful development of various typefaces rivets our attention -– right up to the moment she is forcibly abducted.

Her captors are Grace (Zarah Mahler), a volatile extremist with a murderous edge, and Gash (Edward Tournier), her less rabid associate. It seems in this dystopian new order, ruled over by the all-seeing, all-powerful Company, all printed material has been destroyed, and online versions are so bastardized they are no longer recognizable. The terrorist leader (Bob McCracken), of mysterious origin, wants the Professor to lead him to the Zero Drive, a backup disc purportedly containing all the lore of a lost civilization.

“Futura” is that rare breed, a ripping good yarn with plenty of intellectual heft. Director Jessica Kubzansky handles the transitions from the academic to the suspenseful like an Indy driver shifting into high gear. Friedericy spearheads an exceptional cast, and Tournier is particularly winning as young man avid to put pen to paper and light up his synapses. Myung Hee Cho’s set design, beautifully lighted by Jaymi Lee Smith, starts off with a bare stage and ends with a subterranean repository that is magnificent. Hana Sooyeon Kim's projection design and John Zalewski's sound are also crucial components.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Futura,” Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 7. $32. (626) 683-6883. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Photo: Bonita Friedericy. Credit: Ed Krieger