In one of the opening scenes of Neil & Feck, the title characters massacre babies by the dozens. Infants meet their doom sandwiched in waffle irons, or pitchforked through the neck and scooped into a pile.
Extreme? Maybe. But for the crass, PBR-guzzling duo, there are few choices when dealing with overpopulation.
Feck and Neil, who've appeared in other Theatre 'd Art shows, live in a "dystopian future world" where overpopulation is a real emergency, natural resources are quickly depleting, and poverty and war are everyday norms.
Brian Mann, writer and director of Neil & Feck, says he wanted to write a play that addressed serious issues while still making the audience laugh.
"I always had this image of Neil and Feck sitting around and babies raining from the sky," says Mann. "I also knew I wanted to do something fairly political in nature."
A self-proclaimed National Public Radio addict, Mann wrote the play with plenty of political satire, including a parody of Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report, a show with which Mann says he has a love/hate relationship.
"You can tell [host Amy Goodman] has a passion for issues, but there's something about her delivery," Mann says. "I get the feeling she thinks the world is ending and no matter how much reporting she does, it just doesn't matter."
Mann created his parody, Apathy Now! The War on Peace Report, with a monotone, Goodman-like host who badgers Noreen, the optimistic congresswoman trying her best to combat the overpopulation crisis. Noreen's political and bureaucratic ties prevent her from making much of an impact, though, so she enlists Neil and Feck to help her save the planet. Unfortunately, the guys wreak more chaos than order. According to Mann, that's their calling card.
"Neil and Feck have been around since the beginning of Theatre 'd Art, at least in my mind," says Mann, who helped found the troupe in 2003. "They gave me an opportunity to mess with theater in a way that I've never seen before."
Branching away from traditional drama, Mann and co-creative director Jon Margheim incorporate innovative twists to their productions. For instance, audience members will contribute to Neil & Feck; they'll vote during a Congress scene and decide the fate of the characters by choosing one of two endings.
"The audience is directly appealed to, as if they are the only people left on Earth," says Mann.
The intimacy of the venue (located in the basement of UCCS' Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre) allows the actors to build a familiarity with the audience, creating a non-traditional experience, says Mann. And by interacting on a personal level, Mann hopes to convey the seriousness of the problem through comedy.
"Overpopulation is a difficult question," says Mann. "And Neil and Feck deal with it in an harsh way. It's absurd and ridiculous, so it takes some of the teeth out of it, but still, it's like, what do you do?
"I like making something that you can laugh at and be a little scared of, too."