Nietzschean philosophy has never been this entertaining and Hip-Hop never quite this intellectual. This is the secret to Job II’s success: in a perfect blend of beats and thought, it unites two schools of life that have never really met. At least not until now. If you haven’t heard the hype, Job II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence, the follow up to the critical darling Job: The Hip-Hop Musical is at the Centaur Theatre’s annual Wildside Festival until Jan. 17.
Written and performed by Philosophy graduates Eli Batalion and Jerome Saibil, Job II asks the perennial existential question: Is there meaning to life if God does not exist? This theme is echoed through characters who interpret this question in variety of ways. The play is set in the unconscious mind of MC Abel (Batalion) after taking two gunshots to the head from his brother MC Cain (Saibil).
Abel meets up with a host of characters, including Eleanor Hoover, niece of record industry head J. Hoover (read:Jehovah), Louis Saphire (Lucifer) and guru-like Fred (Nietzsche meets Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi), all brought to life by Batalion and Saibil. After J. Hoover is arrested on fraud charges, a schism of reactions erupts. Eleanor delivers the news to Abel as he lies in Mt. Sinai Hospital for 40 days and 40 nights. She is the voice of nihilistic despair, who, in between valley girl-isms, insists that Hip-Hop is lost without Hoover as boss.
Enter Fred, a disgruntled former employee of the company who kidnaps Abel and shows him the centre of his own universe, which, he quips is “technically New Jersey.” The wordplay in this act is worth the price of admission alone- where else could you find “Schopenhauer” rhymed with “grope in shower?”
As MC Cain runs away from the police down a well and a hot OJ-like pursuit begins, he raps that it’s “every man for himself,” exemplifying the possible lack of morality when one makes their own ethical code.
Fred and Abel find their way down the same hole, but Abel falls deeper into a face to face with Louis Saphire, the demon of eternal recurrence. According to Nietzsche’s writings, the demon of eternal recurrence forces you to relive all the suffering of your life over again. To relieve this, you must be free from morality, and live experimentally. So it is with Abel, who is forced to be creative, or repeat the same rhyme over and over.
If you like Hip-Hop, this piece will be all the better. If you don’t, there is still insightful commentary, clever pop culture inserts and tight choreography to knock you off your rocker. As actors, Batalion and Saibil are a roller coaster to watch. As writers, they manage to entertain and engage the audience’s intellect. The one justifiable complaint is the impossibility of catching all the rapid-fire verses. But this show is still a lot of fun and like none other: the duo’s found their Nietzsche.
The Wildside Festival, featuring Job II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence is at the Centaur Theatre until Jan. 17. For tickets or information, call 288-3161.