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Tim Mooney keeps us guessing. We think we are watching a story about an event that has already happened, but find ourselves thrust into the middle of it. We think there is only one character in the play, until a waitress and a trucker show up (with Mooney depicting each of them, hilariously). And just as we think we are watching a taut, explosive thriller, we find ourselves exploding in laughter.
How did this world turn out this way? "This was definitely not the 24th century predicted by Star Trek!" Given our present situation, and the time line as Mooney draws it, this dark vision of the future seems entirely plausible, and even likely, forcing us each to consider whether this is the future we want to create. Or, at least we would if we could stop laughing at it.
In Mooney's vision, the future carries us backwards, in both technology and attitude. Coal and oil supplies have been exhausted, crippling transportation. The United States has been split into six "unions", which, through civil wars have, in turn, been reduced to three: the East, the Midwest and the West. And in these unions, a new sort of racism reigns, a racism of Social Security Numbers.
Somehow, in the early development of the Social Security Administration, no one imagined that assigning particular numbers to geographic regions would ever be a problem, but in Tim Mooney's "Criteria," (an "Artistic Pick" finalist at the Seattle Fringe Theatre Festival) it's huge. Mooney draws a straight line from our current diminished civil liberties, to a world where terror reigns, and your Social Security Number is your only identifying mark, tattooed indelibly on your right palm.
What keeps all this from descending into a dark, unredemptive hole is Mooney's likeable lead character (if you can imagine a likeable terrorist) and his wonderful sense of irony and comedy. Fresh from performing another one-man show as Moliere, Mooney bubbles with life, even as his character faces the darkest act of terrorism imaginable. It's an amazing contrast. The character wants to be thinking about "big things," but his delusions of grandeur are repeatedly undercut by the petty concerns of having sugar in his coffee, the sunburn on his legs, or the direction of the wind. He yearns for the grand terrorist gesture which will define him forever, but finds himself repeatedly captivated by the very land and people he is sent to destroy.
It seems absurd to call any play a one-man comic sci-fi thriller, but this one is all of that and more. It's Huxley, Asimov and Orwell as seen through the eyes of Woody Allen, Monty Python and Moliere. Just when you want to let out a gasp, a laugh bubbles out of your throat. When you await the big laugh, you instead grip the edge of your seat. And as the fateful train bears down upon you, you pray, not for your survival, but that the inevitable climax will not bring this wonderful play to an end.
The Reviews are In!
Reviews from the Minnesota Fringe, 2006
"It approaches the arena of politics more successfully than any other show I've seen in this Fringe, because it does it through metaphor rather than through preaching. It's smart, it's nuanced, I loved it -- and everybody needs to see it. " Phillip Low, fringefestival.org blog
(5 Stars) "Funny & Riveting" by April Peterson: Simultaneously kept me laughing and engaged in the plot. Amazing balance of suspense and humor, delivered with an energy and style that let me see the countryside and feel the saboteur's internal journey. Futuristic and yet relevant to today's world. Loved it, I'd see it more than once!
(5 Stars) "Meets All Criteria for Great Fringe" by Kale Ganann: Timothy Mooney's epic one-man journey into a possible future carries with it wonderful humor, dark speculation, and a damn great time. The piece dwells on such topics as discrimination, security, arrogance, and identity, and it will leave you thinking about the themes for a long time.
(4 1/2 Stars) "Bright and Engaging" by Leigha Horton: Criteria is a gem. Tim Mooney is bright and engaging, and his tale is fantastical yet so incredibly, and poignantly, timely.
Reviews from the Winnipeg Fringe, 2006
Grade "A" Timothy Mooney's one-man show is provocative, funny, thoughtful, shocking and compelling. Stuff like this is what the fringe is all about. See it.
Quentin Mills-Fenn (Winnipeg "Uptown")
It's a sci-fi action flick, a thriller, a mystery and a road movie all boiled into a riveting one-man show. ... Seasoned Illinois actor and playwright Timothy Mooney convincingly -- and with great range and depth -- plays an identity-less terrorist who is taken from his mother at birth and raised in seclusion to be a killing machine. ... The intrigue culminates in an edge-of-your-seat finale in which the terrorist quite literally holds the fate of America in his hands.
Cheryl Binning, Winnipeg Free Press
A solid "4 star" performance well worth coming from out of town to see.
Barbara Popel, CBC Website
When was the last time you attended a Fringe show where, all around you, audience members were literally leaning forward in their seats, virtually mesmerized and determined not to miss a single word? It happened the other afternoon with Criteria, a very clever cautionary science fiction tale.
One of the best and most original things in Fringe 2006.
Janice Sawka, The Jenny Revue
Criteria is a futuristic, sci-fi conspiracy thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Mr. Mooney embarks on an adventure that will satisfy the most ardent fans of the sci-fi genre.
Ken Gordon, The Jenny Revue
Extremely riveting, with a twist designed to keep the audience guessing until very near the end.
Robin Chase, The Phantom Fringer
"In a world where racism has been replaced by numberism, your social security number determines your very existence. One man, on a mission to wipe out the 'bloated, bourgeois Fives,' finds his entire worldview challenged by a chance encounter in a country diner." --Artistic Picks Finalist, Seattle Fringe
"He's a very good actor with a good ear for dialogue and scenes, and he makes this ambitious notion work as a one-man show."
-- Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
"It's a pretty cool story, and the points raised are particularly relevant. ... the action is exciting, the consequences chilling and the story telling superb. I regard this as a show worth recruiting others to see."
--Carl Gauze, Ink 19
"Like all good sci-fi, the play poses intriguing possibilities. ... a tad predictable but fascinating all the same. Using minimal props it recalls tales told around the fireside, which only adds to its chilling tenor."
-- Scottie Campbell, Orlando Weekly
"Timothy Mooney is a consummate story-teller. I left the theatre with the feeling that I could listen to him tell a story about almost anything the mating cycle of slugs, how dirt becomes rocks, the chemical properties of paint whatever. The story he told at the Seattle Fringe Festival was fascinating. I'm a huge fan of sci-fi and futuristic what-if tales and Criteria delivered And if someone had told me yesterday that I would be listening to the innermost thoughts of a terrorist as he planned the execution of his suicide mission and identifying with his hatreds and fears, I might have hit them. Mr. Mooney took me somewhere I never thought I would go. Criteria was not without comedy either. On his journey, the terrorist enters a diner where he encounters friendly small-town locals. His shock and horror at the decadence of a society where a waitress calls everyone "honey" almost brought the house down."
--Stacy Rowland, "TheatreSeattle.com", 9/20/03
"Hard to describe but easy to enjoy."
--Bret Fetzer, "The Stranger," 9/24/03
"Timothy Mooney's science-fiction drama begins like the preface to a Stanislaw Lem dystopian-novel, morphs into an American road movie, and ends with a comic espionage sequence Woody Allen might have written and all for the price of a one-man show. ... In his confident hands, the drama unfolds at a captivating pace and the dark comedy crackles."
--Darby McGill, Seattle Fringe Review Rag 9/21/03
"Criteria should be performed for corporate executives or at political gatherings and then discussed all night." -
--George Savage, on-line review
"This isn't the idealistic 24th century predicted in Star Trek! Although it's dark, I find myself laughing outloud again and again. I'm amazed by the acting and the storytelling... I love it."
--Barb, on-line review
"Tim Mooney's performance gripped my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat."
--Dick Taber, on-line review