What is it like to dream your own demise,
over and over again?
What if you had to kill yourself in order to stay alive?
And what ever happened to cat polishers anyway?
SCIENCE FICTION PHYSICAL THEATRE
Merging science fiction with physical theatre, The 42nd Floor is an hilarious, mind-bending trilogy inspired by the work of Philip K. Dick, Ambrose Bierce and John Collier. One story plays out a riveting psychological dilemma, another revolves around a dizzying time-travel enigma, and the last is a zany tall tale of the most absurd variety. Joined by themes of paradox and fate, The 42nd Floor is sure to captivate and surprise--an exhilarating new dimension of solo performance.
The 42nd Floor has played in Seattle, USA at On The Boards, The Chamber Theater and the Bagley Wright Theatre. The show toured around the United States and Canada, including the Edmonton International Fringe Festival (the largest in North America), and the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, where it played a record-breaking extension and was crowned "Best of Fest." It also played South Australia at the Adelaide Festival Fringe (the second largest in the world).
"Combines the monologue skills of Spalding Gray with the physical comedy of Mr. Bean." - Vancouver Review, Canada
"This tour-de-force production is one of the best pieces of theatre I've seen in years." - See Magazine, Canada
"A compelling mixture of awe and horror." - The Stranger, Seattle
"Neel's performance is arresting. Appealingly perverse." - Georgia Straight, Vancouver, Canada
"The most strangely compelling performance I've seen. Neel is an elastic, agile performer who uses his body to create an onstage language." - CBC Radio, Canada
"A riveting solo trilogy that leads compellingly from a cat-polishing great-grandfather to hereditary autodefenestration. One piece, Naut, messes with your mind in a zany, hilarious time warp. Combines the molologue skills of Spalding Gray with the physical comedy of Mr. Bean." - Vancouver Review, Canada
"Neel paces himself with the deliberation of Edgar Allan Poe." - Sidewalk, Seattle
"I've never seen anything quite like this mesmerizing, genuinely strange show. Partly it's the disturbing, funny way it weaves together philosophical paradox and morbid comedy. Partly it's because the characters are located in some weird ether between dream and reality. A horror story to tease the mind." - Edmonton Journal, Canada
"Neel deserves the standing O he got." - Vue Weekly, Canada
"PETER: LET'S START WITH THE 42ND FLOOR... WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?
JENNIFER: THIS IS THE MOST UNUSUAL SOLO PERFORMANCE I'VE SEEN. THE 42ND FLOOR IS WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY K. BRIAN NEEL - AN ACTOR WHO'S PART OF THE SEATTLE INVASION AT THIS YEAR'S FESTIVAL. IT'S A TRILOGY OF ODDBALL STORIES - ALL LINKED BY THE THEME OF SUICIDE... AND PERFORMED AS DARK COMEDIES. IN ONE... A MAN TELLS US THE STORY OF HIS FAMILY... BEGINNING WITH HIS GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER SUTTY LUTHOR - A CAT POLISHER IN A SMALL, BAVARIAN TOWN. IN ANOTHER STORY, HE PLAYS A MAN WHO DREAMS HE'S FALLING FROM HIS OFFICE BUILDING... AND EVERY NIGHT - HE DREAMS THAT HE CAN SEE INSIDE A NEW FLOOR IN THE BUILDING.. SLOWLY MOVING DOWNWARD. THE END OF THE STORY HAS A SURREAL TWIST... THAT MAKES YOU SEE THE WHOLE TALE IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT. THE STORIES ARE INFLUENCED BY SCI-FI WRITERS PHILIP K. DICK AND AMBROSE BIERCE... SO THEY HAVE THAT OFF-KILTER SENSIBILITY THAT SHIFTS THE WAY YOU SEE REALITY ALTOGETHER.
PETER: HOW DOES K. BRIAN NEEL HOLD YOUR ATTENTION?
JENNIFER: I THINK HIS IS THE MOST STRANGELY COMPELLING PERFORMANCE I'VE SEEN SO FAR. NEEL HAS A FACE THAT YOU MIGHT THINK WOULD BLEND INTO THE CROWD. BUT ONCE HE'S ON STAGE, YOU CAN'T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF HIM. HE'S AN ELASTIC, AGILE PERFORMER... WHO USES HIS BODY TO CREATE AN ONSTAGE LANGUAGE... FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE THIRD STORY - ABOUT A TIME TRAVELER - HE PERFORMS AN ENTIRE SEQUENCE OF MOVEMENTS BACKWARDS AND THEN IN FAST FORWARD. IT'S A GREAT STAGE MOMENT.THE 42ND FLOOR IS A WONDERFULLY QUIRKY SOLO SHOW. DEFINITELY WORTH A LOOK." - CBC RADIO, CANADA
"I've never seen anything quite like this mesmerizing, genuinely strange one-man show by Seattle's K. Brian Neel. Partly it's the disturbing, funny way it weaves together philosophical paradox and morbid comedy. Partly it's because the characters are located in some weird ether between a dream and reality. Partly, it's because The 42nd Floor introduced to Edmonton audiences a performer of amazing dexterity and charisma.
The interlocking pieces of the puzzle are three stories, all with a suicidal bent. In one, inspired as program notes indicated by the work of author John Collier, a man tells us of a recurring nightmare. He's falling off the 42nd storey of the building where he works, slow-motion, looking as he descends into floors he's never seen. Each night he sees a new floor, one down from the last and as he discovers the next morning, the details are absolutely real and verifiable. The horror of it is that as he approached the 42nd straight night and hence the ground, he realizes that this psychic, and is, in effect, approaching his won death by suicide. Neel keeps talking, as he demonstrates the frozen contortions of a man falling through space.
One strand, inspired by Ambrose Bierce, has a man recounting an amazingly gruesome lineage, chronologically through four generations of men who committed suicide in particularly spectacular ways. It starts with the great-great grandfather, a cat polisher by trade who committed an act of felinicide for which his won gruesome death is atonement, and continues through the death of an explosives specialist. you won't be able to take your eyes off Neel as an eager narrator, breathless with anticipation, who clambers out of the audience and stands among us as he confesses his genealogy. Will he be able to withstand his own tradition, and live? It's up for grabs.
The third strand, inspired by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, explores the morbid convolutions of time travel by proposing a tricky question. If a timetravel mission, in which a man is slated to die, misfires and returns early to Earth, is death inevitable? It's for Neel to make the conundrum flesh and blood, and he does, in an eerie way. This is a horror story to tease the mind." - Edmonton Journal, Canada
"Premise: Three stories about men sparring with Fate: a time traveler must decide whether to go on his maiden voyage when his own dead body reappears two days before his departure; a son fights the family curse of committing bizarre suicides; and a man has a recurring dream about falling down a building, every night coming one floor closer to the sidewalk.
Pitch: Twilight Zone, but alternately funny, angsty and sweaty.
Pedigree: K. Brian Neel primed his skills with Kings' Elephant, the same improv group that launched Kevin Kent; he's currently a performing member of the Seattle Mime Theatre. The 42nd Floor Trilogy has done the Canadian fringe festival circuit to some previous acclaim.
Audience: Sci-fi fans looking to break out of the (television) box.
Verdict: Among the most memorable images of the silent film era is that of actor Harold Lloyd, clinging to the hands of a high-rise clock tower in the 1923 flick Safety Last. Manic, panicking, clutching, face bleached with fear, Lloyd ultimately finds a happy ending - but 42nd Floor Trilogy's K. Brian Neel carries Lloyd's style and mania further, literally over the edge for one-third of this trilogy, and comically for the full length of all three of these stories. Though the sprightly Neel doesn't come from the silent film era, the Seattle Mime Theatre actor is no stranger to shutting his trap and letting his body do the talking. While this one-man show does indeed let the performer vocalize plenty, his body undergoes explosive decompressions over the duration of the show. Merely from the neck up, the actor's facial expressions read funnier than a pack of Garbage Pail Kids cards, whether he's playing the horrified face of a business woman interrupted mid-presentation by a body hurtling past a window, or the fevered, sweaty visage of a man trapped in a time loop. Just his eyeball collection alone is a taxidermist's treasure of frozen expressions: bug-eyed, cross-eyed, wild-eyed, even green-eyed.
With never more than a chair and the theater's clanking water radiator accompanying this bare-boards staging, and the simple, effective costuming of a business suit or bright yellow jumpsuit, Neel lets his physical contortions carry us through two tales interwoven with a third. In the framing piece, Suicide Lineage, inspired by author Ambrose Bierce, we intermittently hear the woes of a young man who introduces us to the evening's theme: struggling with fate. He's the latest scion of a doomed family tree, cursed with the knowledge that each of his forefathers have been drawn to suicide in manners that would make Edward Gorey smile: His paraplegic grandfather, for one, goes out with a bang, rolling himself in fireworks ingredients and touching a match to his pain. But Neel's quirky storyteller, compelling upon arrival, becomes irritating when we see him pop up too much during the 70-minute evening. His sweaty, nervous, garrulous character is too close to the kind of person that clears a Seattle Metro bus of all its passengers, and we'd sooner see him exit this stage vehicle at the first stop. But his caustic presence is a fair price to pay to witness the other two enfolded tales.
Inspired by author Philip K. Dick, NAUT confronts a time anomaly, the pretzeled fate that's almost a recurring character in Star Trek. Neel plays a would-be (or already-is) time traveler who must decide whether or not to take his first trip after discovering his dead body has already made the return voyage - two days before blastoff. Instead of the usual plot focus of such a story, Neel takes us on an expressionistic voyage that demonstrates how it must feel to be caught in an anomaly. Though Neel's traveler arrives with a fanfare of angels and patriotic snare drums, and finishes a confident monologue full of chiseled poses, he soon finds himself going through the whole loop again, and again. Each time he takes us through the monologue again, Neel allows his character's poise to darken further, until we've obviously entered the Twilight Zone. Though the loop repeats do get - surprise - a bit repetitive, we're finally dropped smack into a finale in which the traveler realizes his own time entrapment, in which Neel roams the chilling margins of his own performance like a man locked inside a museum of time travelers for the night.
The other tale from which the trilogy takes its title, inspired by author John Collier, The 42nd Floor is a more straightforward story about a businessman who realizes what his recurring dream of falling off a building ultimately means. Neel paces himself with the deliberation of Edgar Allan Poe recounting "The Tell-Tale Heart," inching closer to epiphany as he falls another story lower, every night. The story is riveting enough, and Neel strikes plunging poses that are ever more ridiculous - until finally it seems like the wind is whistling through his wingtips when he reaches his mental breakthrough. The piece, as with all three, isn't perfect. And ultimately Neel's topic of Fate proves just as elusive as always, but Neel hooks the audience for the duration. A chameleon student of the crazy face and physical contortion, K. Brian Neel proves a storyteller you should try and catch, at least before he hits the sidewalk." - Sidewalk Seattle
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