Sunday, April 19, 2009

The gap between expectation and reality – Continuous City, Wexner Center, April 17, 2009

I remember the moment when I felt like I had to redress the disparity of my friends.  For dozens of folks I would talk to for hours on line, by phone, by e-mail, those were hours I wasn’t meeting anyone, wasn’t even exposing myself to the chance to meet anyone outside.  But at the same time, most of those online friends are friends to this day, and seeing them a couple of times a year or every couple of years is a joy. 

So I don’t think there’s an easy answer to how readily we can be connected with technology but how that method of connection seems to hollow the connection out.  But that was my trouble with Continuous City, that it didn’t feel like it was trying to reconcile those two ideas at all.  Or making any commentary besides just stating those things over and over again.

All of the Builders Group pieces are beautiful, and this is no exception, the use of video for distance and time and the differing grain and visual quality to represent different kinds and levels of webcams, and there’s a moment with speed lines like a sunset and the same sentence in three different places at once that’s one of the purest, most beautiful pieces of theater magic I’ve ever seen.

But I wish it had been an installation.  The de rigeur new theater technique of addressing the audience as though we’re another person in the room, a group being presented to, is tossed off and the attempts to work in the city where the play is being performed felt tacked on to the rest of the action so it wasn’t bringing the theme closer to home so much as it was the equivalent of a rock start shouting, “Hello, Columbus!” or working Broad Street into a song lyric that used to be about Ventura Boulevard.

The text references Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and in the short descriptions and an amazingly sweet long-distance game of Marco Polo, it almost works but where Calvino can use a brief glimpse to show everything imbued with meaning and magic, the people in this aren’t only ciphers, they aren’t coherent enough to represent anything, they exist to say their lines. 

I’m glad I saw it, not unhappy about the ticket cost, and glad the Wexner Center continues co-sponsoring and and bringing things like this to town, but I left bored and surly, when previous productions by this company had me staring at the stars to confirm the world was still in its right place.


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