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    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
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    The Scientists

    Aural gratification

    "The Scientists" is a Firesign Theater-inspired sci-fi radio play about randy researchers looking for love in all the wrong places — inside their own twisted minds.


    When the randy researchers of "The Scientists" finally let loose their burning passions, they seductively strip off their lab coats and, and —

    Written and directed by: Tom X. Chao.
    Cast: Colin Attwood, Tom X. Chao, Susanna Harris, Mike Urdaneta, Mark McClain Wilson, Vivien Weiss.
    Sound design by: Paul Bacon.

    Related links: Official site
    And, well, no, they don't actually strip off their lab coats. That's because this is conceived as a radio play and what we hear is more important than what we see. Yet, it's still a pleasure to take in this faintly ridiculous sci-fi caper in person, even if the action consists of a white-coated cast standing around three microphones and an exuberant sound man off to one side playing with a table full of noisy doohickeys.

    The play grew out of an NYU student scriptwriting project by Tom X. Chao (the darkly funny mind behind "The Negative Energy Field" and "Can't Get Started"), whose misspent university days also included jobs in the math, psych and chemistry departments at USC, so he knows something about faintly ridiculous people standing around in lab coats.

    The Scientists  
    "The Scientists" features Dr. Dennis Colophon (Mike Urdaneta), the overbearing and perhaps undertalented chief of a futuristic laboratory, and Dr. Wendy Rantakillio (Susanna Harris), the fetching and considerably smarter underling whose only mistake is falling in love with him. She hatches a plot to make Dr. Colophon fall in love with her by entering his mind and rearranging his consciousness. But to carry out this devious scheme, she'll need the help of the dangerously unbalanced Sheridan Fenwick (Chao) and the bumbling robot butler Robotronix (Colin Attwood).

    Inspired partly by the Firesign Theater, "The Scientists" romps giddily through a silly story peppered with the kind of offbeat humor you'll be expecting if you've seen Chao's other shows. (The graphic tour of the male psyche is a high point, from the vast barren plane containing knowledge about women to the massive rooms crammed with old song lyrics.) As with all good radio plays, it paints a picture (of your mind) in your mind, and a dizzying picture it is.

    DECEMBER 6, 2001

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