Numbness: Chapter 2 imagines two characters, Jensa and Aaron, struggling to survive in a post-disaster climate. They live in an unnamed laboratory, completing tasks of unknown purpose – they go outside collecting toxic elements and attempt to remove the toxicity. If they perform this task well enough, Jensa’s daughter, a mute girl who’s apparently too traumatized to talk, will be brought to her.
An experimental, absurdist piece, it can sometimes be hard to follow the plot of what’s going on from moment to moment in Numbness. We never learn many of the specifics of the situation, such as what caused the disaster. The characters themselves are in the dark as to what’s happening. They wonder whether they’re really in a laboratory at all. Jensa and Aaron, numb and despairing of their situation, struggle to feel something, anything at all.
Much of the play’s humor comes from its intense (and at times, bizarre) interactivity. The play is staged in an intimate black box theater. Over the course of the 75-minute play, almost everyone in the front row is given something to do, whether it’s holding an antenna or being ushered onstage to mop up water. With a constantly shifting energy, you can’t know what to expect, recreating the experience of, perhaps, a drug trip. I’d hate to give away too much of the surprise, but I can say that if interaction makes you feel uncomfortable, you shouldn’t sit in the front row.
The play is creatively staged, using almost every inch of New Ohio Theater’s space. The dialogue is cut by frenetic dance breaks – the actors have a fluid movement that’s a treat to see, particularly Jensa (played by Laura Butler Rivera). Daniel Irizarry’s choreography brings a fun physicality to an otherwise somewhat dour and anxiety-inducing play.
Numbness: Chapter 2 is the second part of a trilogy by One-Eighth Theater. It will run through May 18 at the New Ohio Theater at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in New York City. Tickets are available for purchase at NewOhioTheatre.org or by calling 212-352-3101.