A Winning Season

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

In any story, the protagonist is motivated by passion. You know: avenging the death of a loved one, righting a wrong, becoming king. In Jordan Harrison's new play Futura at Boston Court, the protagonist's passion is something a little less passionate: typography. You know - fonts, serifs and the like.

Futura is set 20 years in the future. People no longer know how to write - I don't mean write well - I mean write - at all. Those muscles have literally atrophied. Paper doesn't exist - it wasn't “sustainable.” Only the old fogies even remember what handwriting was. And there are no more books. “The Company” - think Microsoft with an even darker heart - has taken over and now there's just one book.

It's a compelling, if a tad familiar, premise: one part Huxley, two parts Orwell, the trench coat from the Matrix, all delivered by your penmanship teacher, whose passion, as I said, is typography.

The drama begins with a lecture on the history of type. From the human hand through Gutenberg's press and finally to the computer screen... where it's been sanitized and sterilized of all its personality. Our protagonist, a professor, desperately misses the old days: the presence of the human hand, the unique voice captured in every letter, the ability to smudge the ink. Would you miss writing? Would you miss scribbling out a quick private thought in your journal? What would happen if writing disappeared and we had nothing but clumsy abbreviations and emoticons? OMG.

It's heady stuff and while not always dramatically satisfying it's deeply engaging...and it's a world premiere.

In fact, all four plays in Boston Court's season have been world premieres. It's frighteningly rare in today's economic and artistic climate to find a theater willing to commit to new plays. Much less a whole season of them.

Now, here's where I could go on a rant about the importance of nurturing the artistic community. How important it is to give voice to our city and our time. Fortunately . . . I don't have to ... Boston Court has made the case for me. They didn't just choose four new plays to produce - they choose four gripping plays to produce.

Futura, like the other three, isn't a perfect play. Emotionally it has a hard time finding its heart. The central question -- is writing important? -- is taken as a given. Moments that should be transcendent aren't quite as potent as they could be. All that said, it's a play that's giving voice to a question of our time; grappling with the Kindle and Google and the fate of language.

So here's to Boston Court for committing themselves to a season of provocative new plays. For giving LA consistently challenging works of theatre, smudges and all. Let's hope their next season is as sophisticated and inspired as this one.

Futura plays through November 7 in Pasadena.

For info on the show text the word curtain to 69866.

New plays - do they make a difference? Or just give me my Shakespeare - join the conversation at KCRW.com/theater.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

The World Premiere of Futura by Jordan Harrison and directed by Jessica Kubzansky runs September 30 - November 7 at Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Box Office: 626-683-6883, open 11am - 5pm, Tues – Sat; Buy tickets online: https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/767405

Banner image: Bonita Friedericy in Futura at The Theatre at Boston Court. Photo: Ed Krieger, Boston Court