“Laika Dog in Space” the combined effort of Chicago and New York’s Neo Futurist Theatre Company, is a witty presentation that is as inventive as it is funny. With clever props ranging from a host of simulated television sets, lighted space helmets and a raggedy stuffed pooch, the show takes a look at the hype, wonderment and possibilities of what may have occurred once the Russians sent Laika into space – the first animal to be sent into orbit. Unfortunately for Laika, the technology to de-orbit was not yet invented.
The three primary actors, Rob Neill, Eevin Hartsough and Jill Beckman (also collaborators in writing “Laika”) delivered brilliant performances whether it be carrying on in hilarious banter with each other or channeling their humor into song. Aiding the characters in working together, a calming, futuristic voice is heard throughout the show that interacts and sometimes reasons with the actors, creating a feel reminiscent to the TV classic, “The Prisoner”. The band is also very present during “Laika”. Besides their own droll lyrical additions, band members were often ditching their instruments for lines, and guitarist John Pierson even doubled as the “Space Race Host” where he finely portrays a cheesy game show personality.
What adds to the fun is that “Laika Dog in Space” is an interactive production in which anyone present in the crowd can suddenly find themselves as a part of the show. Members of the audience are frequently summoned to join in whether it is to answer a question, take instruction from the actors, read from a cue card or join in as game contestants.
Before the show all guest are invited to peruse a room of installations. Exhibits include a wall of famous dogs, funny and creative works of art, a silver ball that gives off electricity and will make your hair stand on end when touched and a vintage photo booth turned into a shrine that honors “The Prisoner” – inside it’s opening credits running continuously.
“Laika Dog in Space”, directed by Phil Ridarelli, is a very imaginative and entertaining show that should not be missed. Playing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through March 12th, tickets are only $15 with discounts available for students and seniors. All performances are held at The Neo-Futurium, 5153 N. Ashland. Find out more about this show at www.neofuturists.org or by calling 773-275-5255.
*Photo - (from left) Rob Neill, Eevin Hartsough, Jill Beckman - photo by Evan Hanover