Future Court: The Bindy Lipton Massacre – Sci-Fi at Zombie Joe’s
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was submitted by guest writer, Matthew Kennedy.
In the year 3032, AIs (advanced intelligence) coexist with humanity. Most live in their own localized bodies, carrying out their lives almost exactly the same as their human creators. But more and more are migrating to the Central Intelligence Network (CIN), a massive distributed network where individual AIs are merged with the ever-growing collective until they need to be called upon. Not all go there by choice. Brought to you by director Brandon Slezak and writer David Dickens (the duo behind West Destiny and many other Zombie Joe shows), Future Court: The Bindy Lipton Massacre takes the audience through the trial of Bindy Lipton following a violent rampage that destroyed the bodies and minds of over 300 AIs, sending one to the CIN against their will. What ensues is perhaps best described as a dark sci-fi comedy, though like many Zombie Joe productions, it’s hard to pin down exactly what genre it falls under.
The Devil We Created
The show opens with Mrs. Lipton (Bindy’s mother, played by Lacey Rae, last seen in Together Again) asking the audience for their help. Her darling boy, Bindy, is on trial for “murdering” a bunch of machines – toaster people. And, if convicted, it will set a dangerous precedent: in her words, “death for him means death for all of us.” Signs are distributed that we might show our displeasure when prompted by her holding up a RABBLE sign (of course, shouting also required), but stop when she holds up her other hand. It’s something that gets used frequently during the show, both to keep the audience engaged and help reinforce the feeling that the trial is a farce. After a warm-up to put us through our paces, the trial begins in earnest and it quickly becomes clear that we’ve been sold a bill of goods where Bindy is concerned. All credit to Rae, the tone she sets during the warm-up gives the impression that her son deserves sympathy and should be let off for everyone’s sake.
The truth is, Bindy (Dickens) is a horrifying man. Despite being blind since childhood, he managed to tunnel his way into a maintenance facility for AIs and embark upon a spree of deranged violence that damaged hundreds of offline AIs beyond repair. Much of the trial’s evidence is given by an ensemble of AI shells (Claire Stephens, Nikk Alcaraz, Brandon Campopiano, and Lindsey Beckwith), who recreate the events of the night in question, as well as alternate through a sequence of AI witnesses called up from the CIN. In a lot of ways, they’re the heart of the show, and in particular, Stephens (also a West Destiny veteran) shines in her ability to switch from a blank-slate drone to a deranged Bindy impersonation to one of four, almost-certainly-mad Dr. Hueys (the creator of the CIN) and back at the drop of a hat.
Playing the comparatively straight men and women to the antics of the drones are prosecuting attorney Lennis Woodlow (Michaela Slezak), Judge (Jason Britt), and Bindy’s reluctant and increasingly disgusted defense attorney Uriah Mue (Ian Michaels of Together Again). All three put in solid performances, with Britt’s campy Judge offering a few laughs on his own, while Slezak and Michaels play their parts faithfully. Michaels’ character was perhaps the easiest for me to relate to, his disdain for Bindy growing steadily as the proceedings continued down the path of madness. Credit must also be given to Dickens, whose often literally bestial demeanor was a source of humorous bewilderment (at one point, he was literally eating his tie) even as his enthusiastic lack of remorse drove home the reality that if anyone ought to be removed from existence, it is he. In truth, I found myself wondering how Mrs. Lipton could seriously think acquitting her son made any sort of sense. Pretty much all you’re left with is that she’s a mother blinded by love, until the show’s climax reveals her own crushing guilt as a prime motivator. In the end, we believe justice has been served. Though, as with a lot of Zombie Joe performances, it’s not quite that simple.
An Interruption in the Network
Overall, I liked the concept of Future Court and thought it was executed fairly well. The cast put in solid performances (again, I’d say the over-the-top insanity put forth by Dickens and Stephens were my favorites), and the timing of Mrs. Lipton’s cues to cause a ruckus were a clever way to keep the audience both involved and distracted from the underlying horror elements of the plot until the show’s conclusion. Britt’s wig deserves its own honorable mention, a garishly neon affair that, combined with his outlandish accent, kept camp literally at the top of the performance (helped by Britt’s delivery, which at times felt straight out of a Monty Python skit). That said, I do think the rape element of Bindy’s murder spree was perhaps unnecessary. Granted, it wasn’t dwelt upon for long, but I can see those with heightened sensitivity to sexual violence finding that part of the show difficult to watch.
I did like how there was clearly a fair bit of thought that went into the setting. There’s some decent high-concept sci-fi beneath all the shenanigans, and I found myself wishing the show had run a bit longer to allow for some exploration of the world the trial took place in. The tattered browns of the Liptons’ costumes contrasted with the colorful finery of the AI characters, leaving me wondering if it was just that they were poor, or if the androids had outstripped humanity more broadly. Beckwith’s scene as Erin Hoze, the sole surviving consciousness of Bindy’s rampage, made it evident that not all AIs felt the CIN was the glittering future it was made out to be, even as Uriah Mue hung part of his defense on the notion that the effectively eternal life it offered made the AI bodies Bindy destroyed a minor issue. However, at less than an hour, the show just didn’t have the time to explore these concepts as much as I might have liked.
Future Court: The Bindy Lipton Massacre is worth seeing. The show relies more on the cast and characters than the overarching story, but as I said earlier they put in solid performances so it works out. Stephens and Dickens alone are probably worth the price of admission. But Michaels, Slezak, Britt and Rae keep things anchored and prevent the tone from drifting into naked insanity. On one hand, it felt a bit rushed in places and I could have done without the (admittedly non-graphic) sexual assault. On the other, outside of that it really is funny. The show knows what it’s about and is entertaining despite the darkness of the story, thanks to a cast and script that do a solid job of blending serious, silly, and twisted.
“I wish you a happy time.”
For more info on Future Court: The Bindy Lipton Massacre, follow them on Instagram, or check out the Zombie Joe’s website or Facebook page. Future Court will be playing Sundays (9/30 & 10/7) and Wednesdays (10/10, 10/17 & 10/24) at 8:30pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.