When they're not dusting off the old classics — over and over — high-school drama departments are constantly in search of new material. But what play could possibly suit the point-and-click attention spans of kids born with remote controls in their cribs? Cue the lights for ZAP, a nonstop farce that juxtaposes seven different plays — performed simultaneously — with a comic genius reminiscent of masters from Monty Python to the Marx Brothers. Combining spot-on parodies of Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett, Neil Simon and performance art and throwing in scenes from RICHARD III for good measure, ZAP flicks rapidly back and forth from play to play, with hilarious results. As characters from one play end up on the set of another, their befuddlement, exasperation, and brave attempts at improvisation are truly priceless. A hoot to read, ZAP is a dream to perform — as high schools in California, New York, and Florida have already discovered.
In his first play for young adults, Fleischman (Breakout) brings the idea of channel surfing to stage. His opening scene has a house manager inviting audience members to use imaginary remote controls when they feel the urge to switch plays. What follows is a hilarious clashing of conventions as periodic "zap" sounds signal changes of scene and genres of play. Clips from Shakespeare's Richard III plus six invented dramas representing a 1916 English mystery, a comedy set in Manhattan in the summer of 1965, a modern performance artist's one-woman show, a 19th-century Russian drama, a Southern play in a 1934 Mississippi mansion, and theatre of the absurd are juxtaposed against each other and eventually intermingle. The fun increases as actors become perturbed and confused about getting "cut off" before their scene is finished and step out of character every so often to speak their minds. The only connecting thread between the clips is a corpse that remains onstage throughout the entire production and becomes a focal point in many vignettes. The humor of each piece marks a stark contrast with the reality of the dead body onstage. With its large cast of characters, wide variety of challenging roles and simple set layout, this play (already produced in three schools across the country) offers a new intriguing option for young adults tired of the usual fare performed in high-school auditoriums. Ages 14-up.