Back in the 1990s, when the US was attempting to create “safe” storage for nuclear waste, an actual Department of Energy report was issued under the foreboding title of Expert Judgement On Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Plant. The report supposedly attempted to describe a doomsday scenario of what might occur if someone “accidentally” got into the plant where such nuclear waste was stored and released the gases into the atmosphere. The report was so ludicrous that, upon discovering a copy of it and digesting its contents, a UNC Chapel Hill Department of Communications Ph.D. candidate based a comical 75-minute play on the conclusions this report provided. Whew!

The candidate’s name is Chandler Classen, and his play, A Feminist World, 2091, is currently being presented by the Department of Communications. The one-act play, directed by Joseph Megel, is showing in Swain Hall‘s black box theater. In it, we see a committee of four men attempting to analyze the basic facts of this case, and each man, in turn, presents his findings to the group. As each scenario is presented, a quartet of actresses enacts the men’s conclusions. Now, this description might very well put the reader off, but the evidence presented, and its bizarre conclusions, are so laughable that a little bit of deflation by some comical analysis might prove enlightening.

The Stage Manager (Trey Thurman) introduces us to the play; he seems to wish us to understand that there is “adult language” in the show, and he acknowledges that there may be “tender ears” in the audience. He then tells us that what we are about to see is “four men discussing what scares them the most.”

The show is quite nicely laid out, with a fairly nondescript conference table and its chairs located upstage, where our quartet of analysts sit, and a larger area downstage, where our actresses (Hailey Clodfelter, Mary Greer, Natalie Page King, and Alice McCracken Knight) put the men’s words into motion. The guys are led by the committee chairman, Harrison (David Coron), and his cohorts are Michael (Isaac Nahson Cannon), Bernard (Al Julian), and Wendell (Lai “Mike” Wei). Harrison and Bernard are old hands at this; they each have quite a few years on their counterparts. Michael is the youngest of the four and looks it. He is a touch uncomfortable at being here. And Wendell, well, Wendell is a firecracker. He informs his compatriots that he was “a member of the prior administration,” by which I assume he refers to Trump, and he is, to say the least, rather full of himself. He waits impatiently as the other men deliver their findings, then drives his own scenario – if I may say so – down their throats. But all in good time.

Harrison lays out the situation. The men are dealing with events assumed to be in the future. The West, dominated as it is by the U.S., has been dwarfed by Eastlandia, which is a mass of land that once was both Europe and Asia; a continental shift and time have mashed the two together. As Harrison describes the situation, mankind has stopped reading. This, apparently, is due to the fact that the upper class has grown considerably to include almost all of the populace, who, due to their comfortable existence, decide that reading is just too much trouble. The lower class – the working class – has no time for it.

So, now the scenarios are played out. The first scenario shows that the workers are all robots, who mutter amongst themselves that they are being exploited by the “humans.” They vow that, sooner or later, their time will come, and they will confront the lazy humans and gain their own place in society. Scenario two depicts a world where the women have taken over, to the point that, in 2091, they hold 80% of the power. The problem here develops because the women are more concerned with “feelings rather than facts,” to the point that the world falls into a state of disrepair. But now it’s Wendell’s turn, and he adamantly decries that the future has been taken over by Feminism, and that the now-female-dominated government is bent upon “destroying everything men have built.” Interestingly, the gals who are enacting these scenarios can hear, as easily as we can, what the men are talking about, and they are becoming a touch perturbed.

Classen’s creation is interesting, despite the fact that some of his scenarios are a little too pat. The notion that we become, as a society, so lazy that we stop reading is more than enough for me to feel alarm. These kinds of extremes make the play feel a little ham-handed. Although, none of the hypotheticals presented here are new. We have always had doomsday predictions; there are always those who feel that if Man cannot “change his ways,” things will go horribly wrong. But the fact that is to be stressed is that these apocalyptic situations come from an actual government document. I think that perhaps this work has put its emphasis on the wrong aspect. It is the gross incompetence of government that needs lampooning, not the fact that they can, with a straight face, release a document such as is described here.

The committee of men blaming everything on women feels absurd, though that plot point is completely rooted in the play’s source material, further showing how bizarre this actual report actually is.  Man, as in the male of the species, has already screwed things up to the point that we are on the verge of a global warming disaster, a future facing a water crisis, and the possibility of losing the entire world into which we were born, of green and blue and plenty. In my view, it is long past the time, now, when we should turn the entire world over to the women. Surely, they can do nothing but improve the situation.

A Feminist World, 2091 continues through Monday, November 15. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.

*Retraction (11.13.21): A previous version of this review incorrectly credited the playwright as having conceived that the committee of men ought to blame women for the world’s issues.  This plot point, in fact, is drawn from the DOE report and is consequently reflected in the play to show as much.