Braving the heat, a friend of mine and I went out to see “Infinite Expectation of the Dawn,” a Giant Nerd Productions show written, directed, and performed by L. Nicol Cabe and presented as part of the Atlanta Fringe Festival. The first of two things that made me choose to see this was that it was billed as a science fiction story set in a dystopian near future, which is something that I thought that my companion and I would find interesting. The second was that it is a solo performance piece written, directed, and produced by a woman in a world of theater where women playwrites and directors are still often given the shaft for no other reason than their lack of a Y chromosome and this person is bringing this show from Seattle, WA all the way to Atlanta, GA. To be frank, I feel that putting oneself out there for a solo show like this is a pretty tough thing to do even without being of a class that suffers discrimination in this field and in an unfamiliar city and the least that I can do to support that kind of bravery is to sit in a chair and let someone try to entertain me with a story that already sounds like it’ll be pretty interesting.
The show itself was solidly decent. As we waited for the show to begin, we heard radio chatter from the dystopian future in which the story is set. Everything takes place after Civil War II, which was fought against the Schism, a group of secessionists in the Western States. The Country has become dominated by a severe form of christofascist corporatism, in which corporations have radical freedom but individuals are imprisoned — or worse — for growing their own food or producing anything else on their own and, thus, undercutting corporate profits. These laws are enforced by something with a name along the lines of the Consumer Protection Bureau, which exists more to make sure that everyone is “taking part in the economy” buy consuming enough corporate goods than to make sure that everyone is protected. Cabe plays two characters in this world: Alicia, who is giving a speech in celebration of Unification, the holiday marking the end of CWII, and also Joan, who is being interrogated by the surviving Schism underground, having sought them out in order to join them. Switching between the two characters, she slowly presents two perspectives on life in a dystopian future many feel that we have more and more reason to fear may be a possibility.
Overall, her performance was decent. She certainly had good enough stage presence to play either part. However, the interludes as she took down her hair and adjusted the top of her jumpsuit to change between the characters were a bit awkward. Excerpts from pop music were played but did little to keep the flow of the play going during the interruptions. I also don’t think that she managed to do a good enough job of making it clear that were were seeing two distinct characters and not just one character at two different points in time. Although I somewhat understood this going in just from reading the description of the show and there are a few other clues, it’s not until about half-way in that the two women are given names and it becomes obvious that they aren’t the same person.
Still, the writing was pretty good. She managed to create a pretty coherent picture of a world where Jesus and corporate success define the American way. The title seems to come from a quote from Thoreau: “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” I dare say that her bravery in bringing this to the stage as a solo performance paid off in making it clear why such a drive to create must be awakened to stand against any system that would render us little more than passive consumers.