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'O Monsters' explores numbers, poetry and speculative realism

The New Paradise Laboratories production is running from now until April 30 at FringeArts.
Plate 3 Photography

New Paradise Laboratories has a habit of making shows that arehard to describe even after seeing them. So tryingto wrap your head around what an NPL show is before seeing it is dauntingto say the least. Here’s a quick stab: “O Monsters” is a play abouttriplets living in a mathematical world, where numbers and poetry havea real impact on their physical reality.

Or as Bhob Rainey, who conceived the show with NPL founder anddirector, Whit McLaughlin, describes it: “It’s a comedy horror showabout 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 2014Fringe Festival, “O Monsters” is drama in the sense that there areactors reciting lines, but the way things unfold is much stranger andmore inexplicable than your average night at the theater. “Becausethere are people on stage and time passes, there’s a sense of dramaticundergirding,” Rainey says. “But at the same time, it floats throughvarious kinds of disorientation and horror and absurdity with thissingular idea running through it.”

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In short, that idea is that the only certainty is uncertainty, amnotion derived from the philosophy of speculative realism. In this world, fundamentals like the laws of physics, could potentially change – which could be ahorrifying concept or a hopeful one, depending on your perspective.“It comes from a place that is super-optimistic,” claims Rainey. “Thisstuff is quite fun.”

A composer and improvising musician, Rainey was instrumental in the“lowercase” music movement, which stresses extremely quiet, minimalsounds. That idea is a far cry from the sound design he’s created for“O Monsters,” which he describes as being often violent anaggressive. “The music is intentionally not friendly sound design,” hesays. The music was created from numbers – statistics, like NASA’s recordsof asteroids that came close to striking the Earth over the pastcentury, 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 outhow to exist in that territory,” Rainey says. “I’ve made experimentalmusic most of my adult life, but I would say what I’ve done with Whitis by far the most experimental, most unknown border-crossing thatI’ve done.”

"O Monsters"
April 23-30
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Blvd.
$29, 215-413-1318
fringearts.com

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