With “Canned Peaches in Syrup,” a relentlessly macabre glimpse into a post-apocalyptic future of worldwide environmental devastation, Brit scripter Alex Jones has impressively intermingled an everyday struggle to survive with the often-hilarious absurdity of the human spirit that innately strives to create normalcy out of chaos. Under the inventive staging of helmer Damaso Rodriguez, a talented and dedicated eight-member Furious Theater Company ensemble turns Jones’ creative vision into a compelling and noteworthy legiter.
The planet’s civilizations have been distilled down to two tribes of nomadic humans: Vegetarians and Cannibals. Pragmatic veggie-muncher Pa (Robert Pescovitz) strives to instill the will to live into the spirits of his sickly wife Ma (Laura Raynor) and listless daughter Julie (Katie Davies). Pa’s one tangible symbol of hope is an unopened can of peaches, which he is saving to celebrate the world’s rebirth, when the Earth can finally replenish itself.
The sorry condition of the planet is a result of the environmental concerns of today, principally the broad strokes of industrial pollution and global warming. The concept of a divinity, however, is still strongly embedded within the psyches of these motley human stragglers, enabling smooth-talking religious huckster Blind Bastard (Dana Kelly Jr.) to play off the fears of both clans. Mellifluously gifted Kelly projects a perfect balance of pomposity and grasping need as Blind Bastard relentlessly pursues the one remaining symbol of Earth’s former glory: Pa’s can of peaches.
Jones contrasts the tentative optimism of the Pa clan with the voracious immediacy of the nearby cannibal quartet of Rog (Shawn Lee), Bill (Eric Pargac), Heather (Libby West) and near-dead but still lighthearted Scab (Nick Cernoch). The essence of Jones’ thematic throughline, the burgeoning Romeo and Juliet romance between Rog and Julie, is set in motion by the absurdly hyperphysical antics of the cannibals as they send Rog surreptitiously into Pa’s camp to scout out their next meal — Pa and kin.
Lee and Davies are perfectly matched, as Rog and Julie utter endearing profanities at one another that are in perfect accord with the wretched, environment-ravaged conditions of their youthful bodies. In Jones’ painfully brutal world, the couple reaches their romantic pinnacle when Rog tentatively suggests they engage in a near-extinct level of human interaction: copulation.
The action is played out on Melissa Tech’s stark, impressionistic sets, which give credence to the scripter’s concept of a sun-seared American landscape devoid of adequate natural resources to sustain healthy life.
The ensemble’s character-perfect perfs are enhanced by the inventive, evocative designs of Christy M. Hauptman (costumes/props), Dan Jenkins (lighting) and Doug Newell (sound/music).