This could be a rich, relevant topic, but unfortunately the Builders
Association seems to be almost singularly focused on choreographing
multiple video screens and overlapping interactions between onstage
actors and onscreen actors to mimic and exaggerate everyday mediated
interactions. The story itself gets lost irretrievably in a labyrinth
of multi-sized screens and mediocre acting, and the result â even with
its up to the moment references â comes off as dated, even boring. This
play sets up an extreme version of what is happening, or what will
happen, as our interactions become more and more removed through
electronics, especially because of global travel and immigration.
Reality gets blurry, relationships become unclear, and even those
closest in proximity evolve into strangers who cannot be faced without
the help of a mediating device.
In what was supposed to represent one of the most depressing moments in the story, a young girl refuses to respond to a nanny in person, and the nanny resorts to texting her "milk or juice?" to get an answer. First of all, juice. Of course. And second, before cell phones (in the mid 90s) when we were both kids, I would call my sister from separate landlines in the same house. Before landlines, I'm sure that notes were sometimes passed when words could have been spoken. I'm conflicted as to whether texting, combined with the fickle and distancing attitudes of children, really amounts to much of a tragedy. In any event, this incident definitely isn't as profound and illuminating about the nature of humanity as it is made out to be.
The girl with the juice is upset because her father, a present day Internet social networking entrepreneur, is traveling the globe to promote Xubu â "get used to saying that name" â the new international video Facebook. He calls her and they v-chat about the mundane things a father talks to a young daughter about. These calls alternate with his international reports â New York (or Vegas?), Paris (or Vegas?), China (really is China) and a lot of airports â to a Xubu business partner. His partner is a douchey man with an Internet dating addiction and a proclivity toward wooing unattractive women. Meeting in person, he tells one of them, would be just too much pressure and way too much of a commitment. Although the man with the daughter eventually becomes disillusioned by Xubu, realizes the emptiness of life on the road and the irreplaceability of his real life daughter, it may be too late. She may be too busy video blogging to notice him.
Five minutes into Continuous City and I can't imagine there is a person in the place that doesn't see the rest of the hour and a half coming. But the idea of using live theater to critique Internet culture is intriguing and could be successful if the strong visual and intellectual juxtapositions are exploited. I do hope there continue to be plays on the subject because although almost all attempts to capture online chatting dialogue in the theater have been annoying, it's surely worth a few more tries.
Playing at BAM Harvey Theatre, 651 Fulton St, closes November 22