An Incomplete List of Everything I’m Going to Miss When the World Is No Longer begins long before the house lights of the Theater Off Jackson start to dim. The musical, written by Dante Green and directed by Nansi Dwendi was performed by Dacha Theatre through February 11. The show kicks off silently, when the first character walks onto a corner of the stage. Their presence is an imperceptible change to the environment as the band plays behind them and the audience chatters in front of them, all while the doors in the back are still propped open for patrons to trickle in. They set down a tray of glassware and watch the audience with mild curiosity, until another character bounds on stage, still under the glare of the house lights, to speak to the first character about how excited they are for this party. More performers appear on stage, talking to each other, catching up, and giving hugs. They start interacting with the audience, too, walking up and down the aisle, introducing themselves, giving compliments, offering a pen and slip of paper to write down charades prompts, and asking audience members how they heard about the party and what they’re planning to do with their last day on Earth.
This is the essence of An Incomplete List: chaos and spirit as the show recounts the interlocking lives of an ensemble cast, told against the backdrop of the end of the world. The narratives start out knotted, told through facial expressions and exchanges that are drowned out by the din of the audience and cast. Once the lights dim and voices quiet, Micah, played by Tessa Jo, and Karina, played by Mariesa Genzale, give formal introductions, and the story begins to ricochet back and forth between the party in the present moment and fragments of the characters’ memories. The large cast and the multiple storylines means these vignettes of memory are short, usually composed of a conversation and a quick melody, and some scenes have a few different storylines sharing the stage at once, while others have one character’s dialogue overlap with another’s. Green uses this nonlinear, criss-crossing structure to contrast the relationships between characters, a variety of close friends, divorcees, mutual crushes, partners, and parents and children, against one another, and though this format makes the details of any given scene difficult to decipher, it spotlights the similarities and divergences in each character, building a picture of who each one is by comparison. Even if a scene is a mere few seconds, it will end having given the audience a greater understanding of the cast. It all amounts to a fascinating and emotional collage of scenes that slowly but surely untangle what these characters mean to one another and effectively develop the story as it gets closer and closer to the end of the world.
At its highest points, during group numbers that come at the opening, climax, and closing of the show, Green's score is mesmerizing, with tuneful solos laid over the chorus's harmonies, accompanied by electro-synth instrumentals. At its lowest points, usually in solo numbers at the end of a scene, the music consists of unmemorable melodies and reiterative lyrics that slow the pace of the show rather than moving the narrative along. Even with a fantastic band, with Diego Chavez on guitar and keys, Doug Indrick on drum pads and cymbal, Kyle Levien on bass and pads, and YUELAN on keyboards, the music's contribution to the story is inconsistent.
While the score struggles to complement the story and make for a more cohesive show, the scenic and lighting design, by Devin Petersen and Anna Shih, translates the worldbuilding of the story into the physical space. Silver balloons that spell out “Goodbye,” pinned to a silver backdrop, and string lights, framing the stage like vines in a garden, blend a bright, multicolored atmosphere with futuristic elements, which perfectly encapsulates the world of An Incomplete List. The slightest tinge of futurism permeates the story, most noticeably in the well-meaning, ever-present computer Ellie, played by Ariel Rose, and allusions to the anticipation of the end of the world. The sci-fi worldbuilding is sprinkled in, just enough to provide context to the story but not too much to detract from the characters and their scenes.
Through all these elements of the story, the space, and the music, the cast of performers is what brings An Incomplete List together and imbues it with an irresistible earnestness. With a premise as dramatic as “the last party on Earth,” a synopsis that promises an inspection of the highs and lows of the human experience, and interaction with the audience as a vital aspect of the piece, the musical could have easily fallen to melodrama and cliché, but it doesn’t. Instead the performers’ energy and commitment to their characters makes the story easy to love. The relationships they illuminate over the course of the story evoke a genuine feeling of community that made Dacha Theatre’s production of An Incomplete List a vibrant and endearing show that stuck in my mind long after the last performer left the stage and the house lights once again flickered on.
An Incomplete List of All of the Things I’m Going to Miss When the World is No Longer took place at Dacha Theatre on January 27th, 2023 - February 11, 2023. For more information see here.