In the year 2068, the world as we know it is gone. Civil War II and climate change have left most of the world uninhabitable. Most of the population is forced to live in underground bunkers for the majority of the year, or in sewers. That’s where Life Plan comes in.
Created by Matthew Latkiewicz (truTV’s “You Can Do Better”) and Brian Janosch (former managing editor of The Onion), Life Plan is a theatrical production at Studio/Stage with a minimal immersive touch. Audience members are treated as people living in squalor, fighting for food and running from mutated animals. And we have been invited to this timeshare sales pitch. The offer: Live your dream life in real life. The cost: A lot less time. There is no physical contact between actors and guests, and other than cheering, the audience is not involved until the end of the 80-minute production – and during my experience, only three people were addressed personally.
Life Plan, tonally similar to a Black Mirror episode, explores several clever themes. Disguised as a timeshare experience, the show wastes no time satirizing the average sales seminar; the pitch is all glamour and flash. Snake-oil salesmen are there to lure us in – after all, it’s their job! Once they have us jazzed and ready to sign up with the promise of a better life, they explain some of the details; albeit, as little as they have to. Because, of course, the benefit-to-cost ratio is leaves something to be desired, and the salespeople are desperate to brush the fine print under the rug. Once we’re locked and loaded to buy what they’re selling, the hype-people play a short video that encapsulates Life Plan’s motto: If you know your expiration date, you have no choice but to live your best life every day.
During the course of Life Plan, a string starts to unravel for the happy speakers living their “best” life: The very natural fear of death remains behind all of the glitter and glamour. The salespeople only volunteered to lead the seminar in order to add more time to their own lives. By spending an hour or two getting others to sign their lives away – thus continuing the cycle – their lives are like the timeshares they peddle. This trickle-down effect has Life Plan reaping the benefits, while playing the ever-looming reaper of time.
The cast of Life Plan firmly digs into their conflicted characters. Latkiewicz plays the super-pumped host desperate to sell audience members their potential new life. His energy is fantastic, and he is an incredible front man for the show. Alicia Luoma, playing another salesperson, matches the charm and intensely happy façade of Latkiewicz, the two complementing each other well. Jonathan Brooks plays a former porn professional-turned-life coach. His character’s sleazy optimism is a hilarious treat, and he definitely steals the show. It is Camille Devoney’s character, a rock star who regrets her decision to join Life Plan, who chips away at the happy-go-lucky salespeople, exposing the real reason they signed up in the first place.
Studio/Stage, where Life Plan takes place, is a small theater that is perfect for an intimate sales pitch. The set is a great shade of blue with four tall, silver chairs lining the middle of the stage and a big screen against the back wall for all the videos and slides punctuating the presentation. The videos are fun, but they were at times blown out, and the sound was way too low – leading to a wandering mind or unclear dialogue. As for lighting, there were a lot of missed cues and the cast’s confusion was obvious. I understand that technical errors happen, but the show I attended was not their first, so the details should have been more ironed out.
Although Life Plan has some great ideas, themes and acting, it just had too many errors and timing problems for me to call it a win. That being said, it wasn’t a total loss for me either; the writers/directors were able to sink their teeth into so many great topics. Clearly Life Plan is a nod to some of the larger socioeconomic issues going on today that concern our future… but they just didn’t give me enough to be satisfied.