Writer: Richard Saudek
Director: Wes Grantom
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
Before any given theatrical performance, one can spot several patrons with their mobile devices out (and on infuriatingly but blessedly rare occasions, some audience members use their devices during performances, but that is another matter altogether). Screens illuminate faces in the house, with theatregoers sending off texts to cement post-show plans, heart a few posts on Instagram, check what fresh hell in politics has broken loose on Twitter, or attempt to beat one more level in a game. Whatever the usage, screens are a prominent part of most people’s lives.
The case is no different prior to Crowded Outlet’s beep boop at HERE Arts Center. Awaiting a performance amid people chatting with their neighbors, others interact with their pocket-sized supercomputers. Once the lights are down, though the audience may (and should!) put away their phones, the unnamed character onstage centers his existence around his phone… and tablet… and laptop. Every other object in this character’s world is unseen, only manifested by Foley effects by the masterful Nora Kaye, who occasionally interacts with the unnamed everyman played and created by Richard Saudek.
Amid brilliant physical clowning and laser specific silent action is a pervasive sense of loneliness away from the devices. The hero makes an elaborate dinner, photographs it, posts it, then throws the food out. Coasting on a positive feedback high of to the tune of “likes” popping up on his device, he grows restless as the pings dwindle to silence. More technological high jinks ensue, including following YouTube beauty tips and attempting to swipe one’s way to romance on a dating app.
Saudek is ablaze with unfailing energy and specificity. His expressiveness is unparalleled, and each movement is curated to optimal effect. beep boop is simultaneously a celebration and indictment of our relationship to our devices. (And for the record, at least one person’s phone illuminated in the moments following curtain call, but most patrons left the theatre before taking out their own tethers to the digital world.)
Runs until 30 September 2018 | Image: Jeremy Daniel