Unlimited - Am I Dead Yet - Photo by Richard Davenport

Unlimited: Am I Dead Yet?

Unlimited - Am I Dead Yet - Photo by Richard DavenportHow will you die? Before walking in to see the Unlimited Theatre production of Am I Dead Yet?, an usher hands each audience member a card that asks this question. These cards, later used in the show, set the tone for an hour of curiosity, chilling episodes (of many kinds), music, and fun, all coming together in a brave investigation of death.

Writers and performers Chris Thorpe and Jon Spooner strike a perfect chord as they toggle between joking, singing, inviting a guest to teach us how to perform CPR properly, and recounting vivid stories about moments before, during, and after death. But is dying really so straightforward? Thorpe and Spooner investigate a few additional stages that force questions about the mechanism of dying that propose a complex and mysterious process, constantly evolving in ways we may not fully understand.

One of their central stories circles around a girl who is playing unsupervised on ice outside her home. She falls through the ice, and presumably has died, until the story takes a turn for the unbelievable. We dive into the reaches of medical advancement, and are challenged to view the starting and stopping of life as something that is more changeable than we might otherwise imagine.

Unlimited have a successful track record of bringing scientific and philosophical material to the theatrical table in their productions and Thorpe and Spooner tell duologues with the kind of exquisite rapport that marks the long partnership of two tried and true pros. They have the audience in the palm of their hand immediately, and they never let go. They get goofy, but only enough to put us at ease, before bringing us face-to-face with challenging and dark questions that we often go to great lengths to avoid. The show’s press materials state that we don’t talk about death often enough, and we ought to. I can’t imagine a more perfect way of bringing that conversation to the table.

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About Ezra LeBank

Ezra LeBank is the Head of Movement and Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts at California State University, Long Beach. He is recognized internationally as a specialist in biomechanics, partner acrobatics, contact improvisation and clown. He is the editor of the national periodical for the Association for Theatre Movement Educators ATME News. His book CLOWNS: In Conversation With Modern Masters is available from Routledge Publishing, UK.