Review: In ‘Thunderbodies,’ War, Sheeple and Psychedelic Muumuus

Review: In ‘Thunderbodies,’ War, Sheeple and Psychedelic Muumuus

These mutant results of unnatural liaisons suggest an Armageddon-like time of social chaos and environmental disaster. (The general woos Grotilde by saying that with all of the earth’s ice melted, “why should our hearts be frozen?”) In one of the few plot threads that bear examination, the soldier and the girl look for a last pure place on earth and, finding it, pollute it.

But amid the incessant noise — both aural and visual — of Lileana Blain-Cruz’s production, such moments barely register. This isn’t a problem of managing surrealism; for the Signature Theater, Ms. Blain-Cruz directed a gorgeous revival of “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World” by Suzan-Lori Parks, a play that would knock “Thunderbodies” out of the ring in a contest of theatrical bewilderment and innovation.

Rather, this production seems content to razz and raspberry what can’t be made sense of. (Ms. Tarker studied clowning and commedia dell’arte.) Everything moves at the pace of a frantic party while also desperately signaling subversion. In a kind of overture, even the title, spelled out on placards, is made to dance and wither.

You can only take Pee-wee’s Political Playhouse for so long. The violent color scheme of Matt Saunders’s set (banana, fuchsia, aqua) seems to be duking it out with Yi Zhao’s lighting (which includes stroke-triggering strobe effects) for a prize in repellency. And Oana Botez’s costumes aren’t far behind; when we meet Grotilde she is wearing a psychedelic muumuu.

At least Grotilde is played by the great Deirdre O’Connell, whose résumé is unparalleled for Off Broadway performances bursting with recognizable human feeling. Not so much here — though I admit it’s a riot, for about a minute, to see her cut loose like a pickled diva on a third-rate talk show. Perhaps you will enjoy her aria about using the general’s nose as a sex toy.

Save for the sweet, low-key performance of Ms. St. Cyr as the girl, the rest of the cast is trapped trying to manage the material by steamrollering it. I’m not sure what else they could have done; this is evidently what the playwright, an obviously promising talent, wants. And to its credit, Soho Rep, which is actually in TriBeCa, has never shied from putting its resources behind work — including “Blasted,” “10 out of 12” and “Fairview” — almost certain to be furiously divisive.

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