With “Pink Milk,” Single Carrot Theatre takes full advantage of its final show in the company’s 6,000 square-foot space. Technicolor lighting (by Cheryl J. Williams) splashes across a white set (designed by Allison Campbell) with peekaboo openings creatively used by actors.
The script’s writer, Chicago-based playwright and composer Ariel Zetina, even contributed a new electronica, synth-heavy score that bumps almost nonstop through the production. It’s a Times Square-level sensory experience.
At the center of the story is real-life pioneer Alan Turing, known for developing a machine that helped break the German Enigma code in World War II and laying the groundwork for modern computing and artificial intelligence. “Pink Milk” doesn’t really concern itself with all that, though, and gets the well-known biographical information out in the first three minutes of the show.
What Zetina is most interested in telling is the personal and inner life of Turing, who talks to daisies, creates whimsical robots and falls in love with a childhood friend who dies young, and then a male prostitute who ultimately causes Turing’s end.
In true Single Carrot fashion, “Pink Milk” is an explosion of creativity. There is a certain level of unbridled joy that comes with working in almost every interpretive idea. Director Ben Kleymeyer joyously showcases this with high-energy staging, interesting work with props (designed by Mika J. Nakano) and a cast that wholeheartedly follows their leader through this psychedelic ride.
Actors in pastel, floral-applique onesies (by the always-excellent Susan MacCorkle) interpretive dance their way through Turing’s psyche (choreography by Valerie Branch), pop through the multiple-story set, fan a giant white parachute and Hi-Ho as stand-in Seven Dwarfs (there are lots of “Snow White” references in the script, which says Turing saw the movie more than 100 times).
The cast is also a universally strong ensemble.
Mohammad R. Suaidi as Turing is thoroughly compelling, showcasing an earnestness and innocence, especially in his scenes with Turing’s childhood love, Christopher (a sympathetic interpretation by Isaiah Harvey). The only other named role is Arnold/Snow White, performed with beautiful nuance by newcomer Benairen Kane, who makes their professional debut here.
Zetina thoughtfully separates the other roles into categories: The Mothers (Meghan Stanton), The Experiments (Paul Diem), The Authority Figures (Christian Gonzalez). Lauren Jackson takes on the character of “The Inanimate Objects,” switching from an empathetic daisy to a yearning Joan (an actual person, not an object, but Turing kind of treats her like one) and an assassin-like jug of tuberculosis-laced milk. Talk about range!
One of my favorite parts of the show is what Kleymeyer does with the set. It’s a tangible analogy of Turing’s life that gets messier and more interesting with each experience–oversize gold stars, scribbled equations and remnants of one of Turing’s robots cover the walls; iridescent confetti and crumbled papers are constant reminders of the war and mathematical experiments; drawers from the set are opened and not closed. It’s a beautifully effective reflection of this man’s life.
Single Carrot’s use of these technical offerings and physical space make “Pink Milk” a fitting final “traditional theater” production for a company that wholeheartedly embraces creativity and new voices.
“Pink Milk” runs through May 19 at Single Carrot Theater, 2600 N. Howard St. For info/tickets: singlecarrot.com/pinkmilk.
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