Hip Shot: ‘May 39th/40th’

MAY39th40th_PRESS copy

May 39th/40th
The Bodega at The Trading Post

Remaining performances:
Saturday, July 18 at 4 pm
Sunday, July 19 at 6:30 pm
Friday, July 24 at 11 pm

They say: "MAY 39th takes a voyeuristic ride through the morning after Sam and Louisa's first date. In MAY 40th, Jim takes creative steps to heal Roya's blindness. It's 3009 AD: dating still blows chunks, and playing doctor is way more creepy."

Aaron's take: Okay, first of all, I'm pretty sure that description is just plain wrong. Unless I completely misinterpreted everything I saw (and there's not much room for interpretation), Jim's the one with the eye problems (though not blindness), and Roya's the doctor who's fed up with his whining. But no matter. Let's get to the crux of it.

Every story, play, song, or artwork must on some level answer the question, "Why do we care?" And sometimes "Because it takes place in the future" just isn't a good enough answer. That Louisa needs to kick Sam out so that she can "log on" rather than "go to work" doesn't change the fact that we've heard this story a thousand times before, and it generally doesn't interest us unless we're the ones in bed.

It's sort of like Brave New World with all the cool stuff taken out. Instead of soma, they have coffee pills. Instead of an alpha-epsilon caste system, they have clones who are known to engage in the occasional pillow fight. And instead of a struggle to break free from the system, they have a "dude's into chick who's not into dude" trope played out in two unrelated vignettes.

I don't mean to imply that the show doesn't have some legitimate strengths, nor do I doubt that the cast and crew could have put on an impressive performance had the script given them a bit more to work with. But if you like your romances feisty and your dystopias, well, dystopian, you'll likely find May 39th/40th to be little more than — to borrow Sam's favorite adjective — cute.

See it if: You want to know how your twelfth-generation clone will woo members of the opposite sex. (Hint: oranges will evidently be instrumental.)

Skip it if: A future that looks like it was created with a "find/replace" tool doesn't appeal to you.

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  • mammal

    I got way more enjoyment out of May 39 than the reviewer seems to have -- it did have moments of "cute" (for some values of cute), but moved cleverly into "creepy," then turned disturbingly wistful. My sympathies were played with very effectively.

    The acting was very good, both vocally and with body language. The set was effectively spare and evocative -- most of the clutter was a satisfying mix of familiar and mysterious. (The silver-painted styrofoam constructions looked a little tooky from the front row, though.) The pre-show and intermission recordings were a very nice touch.

    I didn't enjoy 40 as much, and I don't know if that's because the actors were still coping with the change-up, or that the writing didn't seem as polished to me. It seemed a lot more ambiguous to me, in many ways -- not all of them good. The physical constraints of being on a table may have hampered "Jim's" expressiveness, as well.

  • callie kimball

    Yes, we did switch the genders two weeks before opening.

    Thanks for coming to the show.

  • Aaron Wiener

    I agree, Trey, that 39 was tighter than 40, and the show might have managed to dodge the badge of triteness had 39 been allowed to stand on its own. I imagine that the performances will only improve over the coming two weeks.

  • Trey Graham

    Good catch, Aaron: I heard (from the playwright and from one of the actors) that just last week, the author flipped the roles in the second half. Literally: "You know those lines that used to be hers? Now they're his."

    So yeah, May 40th still seems much more like a work in progress. I like the first play better than you did, though.

    (Full disclosure: Callie Kimball and I are on friendly, coffee-having terms, and the guy who plays Sam/Jim works a day job with my other half.)