If you've ever wondered what a plant being tasered sounds like, wonder no more. In "Botanica," Jim Findlay's overripe juxtaposition of scientific jargon and randy flora, the wildlife endures that and much, much more.
Findlay has moved to the director's chair after nearly two decades of creating beguiling visuals for New York theater practitioners (the Wooster Group, Collapsable Giraffe, Cynthia Hopkins, Ridge Theater). And fittingly for a designer taking the reins (he is also a writer of the play, with Jeff Jackson), he has constructed a riotously lush world in which the environment usurps its ostensible minders.
Some 200 plants cover every visible surface of the set (Peter Ksander handles the duties here), a giant terrarium that also houses three humans. Liz (Liz Sargent) and Ilan (Ilan Bachrach) are cataloging the effects of human interactions on the plants, while Chet (Chet Mazur) serves as a deeply invested caretaker.
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Their often nefarious experiments, complete with a barrage of bleeps, bloops and zaps, involve the aforementioned Taser, along with some violent threats: "We will isolate you in a closet." "We will cut off all of your leaves." Suddenly that actual leaf you received in lieu of a ticket upon arrival makes you feel less virtuous and more like an accessory to a crime.
But just as a botanical insurrection seems imminent - a sort of "Rise of the Planet of the Azaleas" - things take a kinkier and daffier turn. You can catch more scientists with honey than with vinegar, it would appear, and soon the humans are finding increasingly graphic ways to get up close and personal with their potted brethren.
These set pieces carry a perverse kick, and the three actors come shockingly close to making it all seem plausible.
If you peel away the dazzling visuals, "Botanica" can be a bit ludicrous and, well, florid. But like the lustful plants that end up calling the shots, "Botanica" grows on you.