“Museum” a fun, fast-paced jumble of stories

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“You’d have to be nuts to make this stuff,” a character says at one point in the latest Mary Moody Northen Theater show, “Museum.” He refers to art on display at a postmodern museum exhibition, but that quote is easily applicable to all kinds of artistic creation.

Tina Howe’s “Museum” is no exception–this play is nuts. In under two hours, the Mary Moody Northen Theater production shows us sculptures made of animal carcasses, over-the-top Jersey girls in pleather and spandex, plenty of confused senior citizens and a magical light show.

The play, directed by David Long, centers on the final day of an art exhibit entitled “The Broken Silence.” Over the course of the show, teens, married couples, photographers and hip young adults make their way through the exhibit, revealing slices of life which comically break the silence of the somber exhibition. Stories intertwine and overlap, characters move on and off stage constantly. Several actors play multiple roles, transforming from teenage girl to middle-aged housewife or elderly museum patron.

The play itself does not really have much of a plot; rather, it is a series of smaller stories and interactions among groups of people attending the exhibit. The cast, however, works well as an ensemble, with plenty of energy across the board to create one long, buzzing scene. The entirety of the play is set in one room of a museum, adding to the busyness and convergence of action.

The theater-in-the-round setup of the Mary Moody Northen theater lends itself particularly well to the content of “Museum.” Just as the characters in the play watch each other reacting to the bizarre art exhibit, so can the audience members in the theater look across the stage and see others’ reactions to the strange things happening onstage. This lends an amusing “meta” angle to the show, and contributes to its themes of absurdity in both art and life.

The art props themselves were perfectly done–completely bizarre and laughable, but serious-looking enough to seem like something that might actually be in a museum. The pieces only get funnier as the show progresses, once the audience learns some of the backstories associated with them.

There are some more serious moments toward the end, but the characters shine the most during the crazy scenes where multiple plot lines converge, with people talking over each other and miscommunications abound.

Overall, “Museum” offers a quick yet satisfying foray into a whole parade of interesting characters. It presents insights on the relationships between art and life, and makes them easier to swallow with heavy doses of humor and absurdity.