Playwright: created and performed by Live Action Cartoonists
At: Athenaeum Studio 3
Phone: (773) 936-6860; $15
Runs through: Dec. 13
It starts with a group of artists sketching pictures of soldiers on a blank wall, one of them brandishing a pen affixed to a long stick in order to extend his reach. Soon we hear sounds of artillery fire. Another artist appears with a bucket of red paint and emblazons a large X over one soldier, then another. The remaining artists sketch more soldiers. The bucket-man continues to cross them out. Faster and faster, they race against one another. Soon the stage is a Guernican melee of frenzied movement and overlapping graffiti.
And THAT, boys and girls, is war, as depicted by the Live Action Cartoonists for this amazing display of multidisciplinary visual and kinetic expression. In the hands—or the pencils, if you will—of this merry squad of scribblers, even the familiar announcement regarding cell phones becomes a full-scale production number involving video projections, onomatopoetic graphics and a medley of electronic chimes. The title sequence is no less imaginative, opening with an artist sitting at his desk, oblivious to the symphony of stylus-noises and their transliteration—the 'scritch' of a number 3 pencil, the 'squeak' of a felt-tip marker—accompanying his activity.
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Not all of this brief show is paced at looney-tunes speed, however. A scene in which two etchers ignore each other to concentrate on their delicate craft is an almost Rembrandt-like study in stillness, as is an enigmatically Freudian tale illustrated in miniature with three-dimensional objects. But if the circle-saws employed to deliver the babies of plywood-cutout mothers seem a bit gruesome, even backed with a cheerful Bobby Vee ditty, it is more than redeemed by the iconographic power of such images as a scrolling casualty list, minuscule at first, but gradually swelling until it fills the entire stage.
'Negative Space,' by the way, refers to an area within a picture left deliberately empty. You won't find much of that in this 80-minute spectacle, but by the finale—in which a band taping a music video struggles with a plethora of special effects—you will likely be dazed and awestruck by the sheer intricacy of its expressive execution.