Play for time: 30-year-old futuristic show finds new life

Chandra Albritton and Justin Clark star in the new production of “Sci Fi” by Brooklyn playwright Ellen Rittberg.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

This science-fiction play will happen in a dystopian land — Manhattan.

An upcoming production gives new life to a Brooklynite’s 30-year-old script about a dystopian future. “Sci Fi,” which first debuted in Kings County in the late 1980s, returns for a limited run at the Hudson Guild Theater in Manhattan starting on July 29 — telling a love story against the backdrop of a tyrannical government and a stratified society, said the playwright.

“At the heart of this play is a human relationship. It’s really a love story of sorts — even though it’s a very unusual one,” said Ellen Rittberg. “It’s a story of these two people in different classes. There’s a plumber who’s not allowed to talk to someone who is in a higher class. But the two of them develop a relationship.”

The plebian plumber, Rick, defies the fascist state to fraternize with Shana, an indoctrinated upper-class aristocrat, and reveals some hidden truths about the society’s sinister past, said Rittberg.

“He comes in, and it’s like nothing she’s ever experienced,” she said. “He knows certain things, and she doesn’t. She’s existing in a miasma of ignorance about what happened — a mass killing of workers. And she’s been propagandized to believe certain things.”

Rittberg believes that her 30-year-old story has become even more relevant, as people reject facts they dislike as “fake news.”

“There’s such extremism and hate in the world today, and many people are worried about our country and our democracy,” she said. “For the government to subvert the truth, or to ignore the truth so that it’s basically not even there — that’s what we’re seeing now.”

“Sci Fi” tells the story of a totalitarian society marred by a history of mass murder and dystopia.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Rittberg made some slight changes to the script to reflect modern technology, but most of her script remains intact and relevant to today’s concerns.

“The changes I had to make were very minimal,” she said.

The script makes its second professional debut as part of the New York Theater Festival’s Summerfest. A five-member cast will perform three showings at the 100-seat Hudson Guild Theater.

Rittberg — a Brooklyn native who now lives Downtown — said the timeless tale will leave the audience deep in thought.

“When you leave, you’ll want to discuss it with somebody,” she said. “It’s thought provoking.”

“Sci Fi” at Hudson Guild Theater (41 W. 26th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues in Manhattan, www.newyorktheaterfestival.com). July 29 at 6:15 p.m., Aug. 2 at 9 p.m., Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. $23.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

More from Around New York

>