Certainly we’ve all encountered speculations about how aliens from outer space might view, study and analyze us. 

Playwright Constance Congdon turns on such a telescopic or microscope or periscope, whatever, when beings from elsewhere focus on suburbia of the 1980s in Tales of the Lost Formicans  at UNO Theatre.  You remember Formica, right? That plastic laminate, heat- resistant and wipe-cleanable surface for table and counter tops all over this land. The setting for good old Velveeta-based mac & cheese, or Hamburger Helper-helped hamburger.

A Colorado subdivision is studied by three such aliens. Under scrutiny is a nuclear Colorado family which may be exploding. Dad’s mind is being increasingly wiped clean by Alzheimer’s. Mother is hoping to find a way to tune out reality. Returned-home Cathy is trying to deal with her perpetually angry son and the fact that her husband left her for a younger woman.  Dropping into this vortex is Jerry, a conspiracy wierdo.

Time  Magazine calls attention to “a wonderful comic sensibility” and a “chillingly painful addressing (of) postmodern society’s collective nervous breakdown.” The Chicago Reader   calls it a bitter observation of, among other things, “rootlessness, paranoia, unrequited passion and random violence.” And the Los Angeles Times  observes it’s a family neighboring on Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth  with mall worshipers bemoaning the absence of old-fashioned values but capable of setting a car on fire and having a clandestine encounter in a motel. Expect adult language and themes

This play debuted in 1989. Congdon’s others include Dog Opera , Losing Father’s Body, Lips, The Automata Pietà  and a new verse version of Molière’s The Misanthrope  She’s also written a number of opera libretti and plays for the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis. https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/682

FYI: the cast, crew and students at UNO brought random found objects from home for the set. Let’s hope that not much in this stage family reminds you of your home, that they are the aliens.  

Tales of the Lost Formicans unfolds April 12-22 at UNO Theatre, Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge Street. Weds.-Sat. 7:30 pm. Tickets: $5- $16, UNO students: free. www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre

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