A funny send up of the trials and tribulations of two experimental artists, The Rise and Fall of Miles and Milo is well worth seeing. The play is written in rather broad brush strokes, and, consequently, has a relatively simple premise: Miles and Milo are protesting outside the Sunshine Foundation for the Arts. They provide, for whatever random audience who happens by, a history of American capitalism which, according to them, began with an evildoer named Sackville. Their portrayal of Sackville makes him sound like a cartoon character in his complete and thorough evilness. Not satisfied with his already total control over the world, Sackville created the Sunshine Foundation for the Arts as a way to squelch artistic expression. By giving grants only to the mediocre and the unworthy, according to Miles and Milo, Sackville is effectively wiping out genuine artistic expression and real talent. Miles and Milo, meanwhile, have been submitting proposals to the Sunshine Foundation for the Arts for years. The fact that they are so consistently rejected is the sign of their true talent and real artistic worth, in their eyes. So when Sackville’s administrative assistant announces that Miles and Milo have actually won a grant, the pair naturally descend into both moral and aesthetic crisis.
Asselin’s talent as a writer is broadly comic, yet also intelligent and politically astute. The playwright takes a number of jabs at experimental, unfunded artists, and Miles and Milo’s complaint has a vague similarity to experimental artists’ outcry in the 1990s against the politicization of the NEA. But Asselin does not reserve her satire for experimental artists alone. No one, in Asselin’s world, is truly happy, and she gleefully shows the darker truths behind the little white lies and larger ambiguities with which we all live. The fact that the audience winds up laughing at itself is Asselin’s greatest triumph.
Director Melissa Firlit aided the play by matching Asselin’s broad humor with a uniformly broad acting style. All of the performers were both engaging and entertaining. The Rise and Fall of Miles and Milo is recommended to anyone who wants to have a good time and a good laugh in the theater.