This article was written by me for, and originally posted on, Forward Compatible.
Outside the walls, things are grim: New England is a frozen wasteland. Things aren’t much better within them, but your chances of survival are better. Slightly. The denizens of HartLife’s community — better known as Policies — live to work. At the very least, they work to live. The corporation keeps its Policies in line through oppressive bureaucracy, brazen propaganda, and a multitude of unnatural threats. Those who do not bend to the will of HartLife often contend with the like of giant ants and carnivorous mold. A strict social order maintains some semblance of order, and HartLife’s Orwellian monitoring systems prevent the order from being questioned.
Our Fair City is a podcast produced here in Chicago. The cast recently performed a live episode for several nights at Chicago’s Fringe Festival. This special event was presented as a live taping of The Archibald Funnypants Variety Hour, a popular radio show designed to entertain HartLife’s Policies while keeping them mollified. The venue wasn’t perfect; the lack of air conditioning made the room muggy and slightly uncomfortable. It was underground theatre in its most raw form, and I do not think it should be used to judge the show. I only mention it because, in a way, it suited the concept of the show. An audience of HartLife Policies would likely view the show in a less-than-comfortable climate.
I gave the show’s web site a quick glance before the performance, but I did not listen to any episodes beforehand. Though a thorough understanding of the show would have likely lead to a deeper connection to Our Fair City’s live production, I am happy it was not necessary. The story is easy enough to get into, and Archibald Funnypants, portrayed by Mark Soloff, does a fantastic job of acclimating the crowed to their world. The majority of the show was a series of moralistic short stories, skewed to suit the interests of HartLife. As a radio drama, actors stood in front of microphones while performing, and a foley artist created an aural landscape onstage to accompany them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, which included parables about the proper place in society for mole-people, the dangers of carnivorous mold outbreaks, and the dire need for Policies to donate their discretionary income back to the company. It piqued my interest in the podcast itself, and I would jump at the chance to see another live performance.
Our Fair City presents the lighter side of corporate-sponsored dystopian misery, and it’s worth checking out.