Stage Notes: Machines x7

Tom Murrin

Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford, creators of the wildly successful and hilarious All Wear Bowlers, and Quinn Bauridel, co-artistic director of Philadelphia's rad and raucous Pig Iron Theatre Company, are collaborating on a piece that finds them surrounded by Rube Goldberg-esque mechanisms. Goldberg was a uniquely genius cartoonist of the '40s & '50s who drew a weekly panel showing a 10 to 15 step "invention" that performs a simple task (i.e. turning on the lamp or putting the cat outside at night). In this lengthy titled production, machines machines machines machines machines machines machines, this trio of theatrical inventors has fashioned a play wherein they live in a room, visibly paranoid about the dangers of the outside world and having to rely on toys to do their daily tasks.

Read Tom's interview with Geoff Sobelle and understand the complicated world of machine machine machine... after the jump.

Hi Geoff. Why so many “machines” in the title? I count 7.
If we had our druthers, there’d have been 27. There's about that many machines in the show.

How did you three guys come up with this idea for a show?
There's a Queen song called "Machines." We had the lyrics and we did a dramatic interpretation of it for ourselves, with lines like "the grinding and the writhing;" like machines were the most important thing in the world. It was so absurd, and we got to laughing so hard that we decided to make a show out of it.

I was always a fan of Rube Goldberg's cartoons.
We say, "It's the most amount of effort for the least amount of gain." That's Rube Goldberg in a nutshell.

How does this fit into the show?
You have three insane characters that have concocted this world to make it easier for themselves, but actually they've made it more difficult. They're trying to accomplish the most menial tasks in the most complicated way possible.

Give me an example.
We cook breakfast on stage. A ball rolls down a ramp, to depress a toaster. The toast goes down and that engages the coffee to start boiling. And it's all really happening (on stage). The coffee boiling releases an egg into a pan, and then one character tries to flip the egg, from the other side of the room, with a fishing rod.

Ha ha! So these machines really work?
All of the things work about 20% of the time. The failure of the machine is a big part of the show. The audience knows what's supposed to happen and they see what is happening and they realize it won't work. And that's the comedy. But they really want it to work.

Is there another side to the show?
The three guys have created a world in this room. It's overly complicated, and within the boundaries of their own logic. It's a metaphor for how we live today. They're obsessed with the impending danger from the outside world, just like America's obsession with security and technology. Also, it's three men who are dealing with their fears like little boys. Instead of dealing with the problem they basically create toys.

How long is the show?
70 minutes with no intermission. And it's very physical, chaotic, messy and funny. It plays on a lot of different levels. It's fun to watch because of the machines, but it has a poetic side too. It's very much a satire.

HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Ave., (212) 352-3101. Wed.-Sat. 8:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 4 p.m.; additional 8:30 p.m. performance on June 2 and 11 p.m. performance on June 19 & 26. $20/$28. Through June 27.

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