By Paulina Herran
Undermain Theatre has been a bustling hub of experimental theatre in Dallas since 1984. According to representative staff member and development associate Maryam Baig, “[We have] completed 30 seasons of creating live theatre on our own terms.”
The theater’s upcoming season includes four productions that Baig says center on pivotal life changes. The current production, “Tomorrow Come Today” by Gordon Dahlquist, is a depiction of how mankind will forever be haunted by the same dilemmas though individual circumstances may change. The characters in “Tomorrow Come Today,” a compelling futuristic story, must answer to the age-old worries of living ethically, responding to hypocrisy and facing death. When the play began, I was honestly worried I had missed the first half of the play. It begins “in media res” at the conclusion of a strange surgical procedure that the audience comes to realize involves implanting the consciousness of one human being into a different body. Act 1 was confusing, but I came to realize that understanding the story itself was not the point. Rather, the point was to understand what questions were being posed about humanity and how the characters responded to those questions.
Set several hundred years in the future, the story focuses on wealthy human beings who now have the ability to live forever by undergoing transfers. These transfers mean a continuous shuffle of corporal hosts, rendering the individuality of bodies unimportant. With death seemingly vanquished (for the wealthy, at least), the aftereffects are interesting. The natural desire to continue one’s bloodline after death is now inconsequential, altering the relationship between children and parents in the play from naturally intimate to naturally estranged, not even adequately capable of recognizing each other on the streets due to constant transfers.
The ability to change one’s body at will also diminishes other vital aspects of humanity such as the differences between genders and the length of typical relationships. Gender is no longer a decision necessarily made by nature, and relationships have expected ends rather than hopeful forevers. In the first two acts, these weighty topics were tough to understand, and I struggled to piece together the pieces of the story. I thought it would all end in confusion, but Act 3, which is set in 2014, made every aspect of the play fall into place. Faced with death — actual death — the characters that had taken life for granted finally experienced mortality and the strange mixture of certainty and doubt that comes with it. The play was compelling and massively thought-provoking, and the actors were astounding. Playing various roles due to the changing of bodies, the actors in “Tomorrow Come Today” were truly challenged to display how versatile they could be. Despite the awkwardly long and strangely humorous monologue of a robotic house protecting its master by calling out its defenses, “Tomorrow Come Today” was definitely a success.
This season at the Undermain will also include “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls,” “The Flick” and “The Testament of Mary.”
“These four playwrights have propelled us into this brave new world, in which we explore, driving our world forward, bringing us all into a second generation,” Baig said.
Undermain Theatre works with that idea of the “second generation” and makes it a goal to cultivate new actors and playwrights, wanting to provide new artists to Dallas. Following with the company’s mission to grow and cultivate new artists, it makes its own art readily available for the community by making its tickets affordable for students and by participating in community events.
“We are invested,” Baig said, and they therefore seek to improve their investment in the community daily.
“The most amazing thing is that Dallas is so supportive,” Baig said. “Dallas is just bursting at the seams with good citizens and good will.”
To purchase tickets to an Undermain production, go to www.undermain.org.