New Paradise Laboratories has a habit of making shows that are hard to describe even after seeing them. So trying to wrap your head around what an NPL show is before seeing it is daunting to say the least. Here’s a quick stab: “O Monsters” is a play about triplets living in a mathematical world, where numbers and poetry have a real impact on their physical reality.
Or as Bhob Rainey, who conceived the show with NPL founder and director, Whit McLaughlin, describes it: “It’s a comedy horror show about people mutating and things falling from the sky.”
It is, of course, much more complicated than that. Like “The Adults,” the show that McLaughlin and Rainey collaborated on for the 2014 Fringe Festival, “O Monsters” is drama in the sense that there are actors reciting lines, but the way things unfold is much stranger and more inexplicable than your average night at the theater. “Because there are people on stage and time passes, there’s a sense of dramatic undergirding,” Rainey says. “But at the same time, it floats through various kinds of disorientation and horror and absurdity with this singular idea running through it.”
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In short, that idea is that the only certainty is uncertainty, am notion derived from the philosophy of speculative realism. In this world, fundamentals like the laws of physics, could potentially change – which could be a horrifying concept or a hopeful one, depending on your perspective. “It comes from a place that is super-optimistic,” claims Rainey. “This stuff is quite fun.”
A composer and improvising musician, Rainey was instrumental in the “lowercase” music movement, which stresses extremely quiet, minimal sounds. That idea is a far cry from the sound design he’s created for “O Monsters,” which he describes as being often violent an aggressive. “The music is intentionally not friendly sound design,” he says. The music was created from numbers – statistics, like NASA’s records of asteroids that came close to striking the Earth over the past century, or traffic patterns and stock market prices. “
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The idea forthe music was to reach towards things that were inhuman and find out how to exist in that territory,” Rainey says. “I’ve made experimental music most of my adult life, but I would say what I’ve done with Whitis by far the most experimental, most unknown border-crossing that I’ve done.”
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