Seeds of Destruction
by Miles Howard
| April 05, 2012
Our inner worrywarts made it tough to enjoy 2012’s unseasonably warm winter: we kept picturing a wall of water from melted ice caps roaring through Back Bay. Clearly, it’s hard to resist rubbernecking at an imagined apocalypse, so sign us up for 28 Seeds, a new musical that employs live actors, video, and dance to portray a planetary collapse.
In the tradition of eco-driven science fiction like Dune, 28 Seeds concerns itself with the disastrous results of unchecked industry. “Our central plot idea is resource shortage, taken to an extreme,” explains director Jason Slavik, founder of avant-garde theater troupe Liars & Believers. “In the play, there’s no clean air left in the United States, so, naturally, we go to war with Canada.” As North America descends into dire human-caused conflict, the cast also finds itself faced with a looming natural disaster: an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. And the growing call for action falls upon the deaf ears of a government consumed by its own agenda.
If this all sounds a bit too plausible for comfort, you’re not alone. “There’s a troubling parallel between the play and the rate at which we’re consuming oil and how that may worsen global warming,” says Slavik. But don’t expect a depressing PSA: 28 Seeds promises a rollicking ride, in no small part thanks to its music, which comes courtesy of the fantastical steamcrunk ensemble Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. Slavik met Sickert during the run of Liars & Believers’ 2010 “punk fairy tale,” Le Cabaret Grimm. Each show opened with performances by different Boston “fringe artists,” says Slavik, referring to eccentric performers who rarely see the mainstream spotlight but are nonetheless “dark, interesting, and beautiful.” Sickert opened Grimm’s first night with his unique steampunk style, which Slavik affectionately calls “inventorly.” Think Jules Verne meets Tim Burton. “For costuming, you stitch velvet with steel, outfit a top hat with work goggles, or build a corset with gears,” Slavik says. “It’s all very DIY, in an industrial, tongue-in-cheek sort of way.”
With his ensemble, the Army of Broken Toys, Sickert delivers steamcrunk music that piles fiery vocal work atop jazzy double bass, violins, and folk guitars. Clad in feathers, tights, and other garb that seems scavenged from a Victorian circus cart, they provide a rambunctious soundtrack for the play’s mad scientists and fascist generals, endowing the apocalypse with more scraggly merriment than we’ve encountered since “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” Hear it for yourself when 28 Seeds plants itself on stage at the BCA Plaza Theatre (539 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.426.5000) from April 19 through May 12. Visit liarsandbelievers.com for tickets ($35) and show times.