Odditorium of characters face life-changing shifts in ‘Futureproof’By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor May 16. 2018 1:50PM
At some point or another, just about everyone feels like a square peg in the circle of life.
With “Futureproof,” playwright Lynda Radley explores a collective identity crisis set against a nosediving industry and an uncertain tomorrow.
But the backdrop for this crossroads is an unusual one — the Victorian side-show world of oddities, and a group of people whose struggles draw parallels to today’s celebrity scrutiny and ideals of perfection.
“Futureproof,” which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, will get its New England premiere today through Sunday in an Actors’ Circle Theatre production at the Peterborough Players stage.
ACT’S description of the production begins with two uncomfortable questions about the characters: “Marvels, or God’s jokes? Evolutionary curiosities, or creatures to be pitied?”
In “Futureproof,” the people once referred to as “sideshow freaks” include an armless bearded woman (played by Wendy Almeida), a mute mermaid (Heather McCormack), an obese man (Chris McCartie), a pair of Siamese twins (Tara Sabino and Emma Keating) and a hermaphrodite (Kimberley Miller).
Riley (Bert Torsey), owner of the “Odditorium,” is seeing ticket sales plummet and financial worries soar. He figures the best way to garner revenue is to change the show’s theme and erase the troupe’s individual “oddities”— via drastic measures.
“The thing that attracted me to (the role of) Riley was that he was genuinely concerned with the welfare of his troupe, to begin with. But over time, he compels them to change — so that he doesn’t have to,” Torsey said in an Actors’ Circle press release.
The play centers on how people get to a point in their lives when they have to ask, “What do we do when what we know is no longer?”
“I was drawn to the script because it presents the tale of everyday life of performers who, despite the fact that their attributes and uniqueness are on view for a price — which is no different than celebrity as a whole — live a sweet and poignant familial style of life, which Riley ... strives to maintain,” Moravis said. “This play has a very unexpected turn, though. But once that turn is revealed, how the Odditorium performers react is its own revelation.”
Moravis said it was cast member Miller who piqued the theater’s interest in “Futureproof.”
“(Playwright) Radley (a native of Cork, Ireland) lived then in Scotland, and the play was presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011,” Moravis said. “Kimberley saw it and proposed it to ACT, who appointed me as producer/director. It took us three years to acquire the rights, and we are the New England premiere.”
“I’m drawn to this play because of how it speaks to achieving love of one’s self and one’s individuality,” Miller said in an announcement of the show.
The group shares a tight bond, but they are not immune to the scuffles and clashes that arise when strong personalities come together.
Though some of the characters are tempted by the chance to finally fit in, all are wary. If each’s “peculiarity” is removed, will their individuality be next?
“The playwright feels that this play is a reflection of the modern-day obsession with celebrity resemblance, and the seeking of physical perfection,” Moravis said. “There is a spectre of non-acceptance looming over us still.”
In addition to directing, Moravis is a producer with Rob Koch and costume designer with Veda Crewe. Ivan park is handling lighting and sound design, and Alana Korda is stage manager.
Moravis was raised in Scotland and considers this play a “theatric piece of home.”
While “The Great Showman,” a big-screen musical that stars Hugh Jackman in a story inspired by the life of circus innovator P.T. Barnum, came out in 2017, ACT officials have been seeking approval to present its own glimpse under the big top for a handful of years.
“I’m told that by the U.K. rights holders that the only other place in the country where (Rader’s play) has been presented is Catholic University in Washington, D.C., a few years ago,” Moravis said. “Other than ACT, it’s not been presented since.”