By Venus Zarris
I remember a couple decades ago when carrying a mobile phone resembled carrying around a car battery with a landline phone receiver attached to the top. They were cumbersome eyesores and yet the very few that had them would display these bulky techno-toys as a status symbol of sorts, oblivious to the fact that it looked lame.
Mobile phones have gotten exponentially smaller and now everybody has one. They are streamline conduits to the altered paradigm of constant communication that offers infinite distractions to the realities of life. The rapid technological evolution of cell phones, to the point of becoming actual physical extensions of our existence, has created a dichotomy of de-evolution. In our quest to stay continuously connected, we have all but lost genuine interpersonal communication. In being constantly plugged in, we have reached a new level of superficiality and detachment. We display these phones almost everywhere and in almost every situation, eager for the world to see that we are proud participants in this hyper-hyped communication matrix. Regardless of the make, model, features or apps, they still look lame.
As I told one friend who finally upgraded to a phone with an actual keyboard, “Text more. Care less.”
With Smartphones – a pocket size farce, Playwright/Director Emilio Williams has created a whimsically absurd love letter to our techno-infatuation. Four characters come together after receiving emails, texts, Tweets and facebook posts from a mutual friend to meet him at his home. This friend has “spotty coverage” so it is never clear when he shall join the party. They wait in a purgatory of interpersonal shallowness, backbiting each other while sporadically pausing to take a picture and then instantly posting it to some form of social media.
Chantal to Amelia, “You look like a frog!”
Amelia to Chantal, “And you, pour thing, that double chin! I’ll post it to your wall!”
Williams nails our obsessive pocket-sized preoccupations and ever increasing abandonment of human decency. In perhaps the funniest monologue in the play, Dagobert explains his decision to send his young children to live and work in China. “Sending your kids to China is the latest thing in outsourcing!”
Smartphones is clever commentary wrapped in a shiny package of silliness. From the preshow minutia, ala 1960’s Esquivel Space Age Bachelor Pad, to the contemporary references about every form of social media; Smartphones combines a grab bag of concepts to create a meta-theatrical farce. This is not so much a cautionary tale or a damning indictment but rather a ridiculous romp through our mindless modern milieu.
Master Set Designer Brian Sidney Bembridge creates a sensationally stylized tone and Costume Designer Tonette Navarro compliments the colors and sleek sensibilities to perfection. This show looks as good as next year’s iPhone upgrade.
The cast delivers the craziness with a calculated combination of choreographed restraint and reckless abandon. Mariana Leite opens the play with a hysterically absurd lip-synch that sets the stage for unpredictable irreverence. Geraldine Dulex is a perfectly flirtatious minx as Amilia and Antonio Brunette is an idiosyncratic delight as the co-dependant Dagobert.
Jodi Kingsley steals the show as Chantal, with a performance that sneaks up on you like overage charges at the end of the month. Her comic timing is smarter than the smartest smartphone and her delivery is nothing short of cheeky brilliance. She completely inhabits the satire and delivers it with a custom ring tone of hilarity.
This entertaining world premiere is presented with all of the striking peculiarity and stunning production values that Trap Door Theatre has become known for. Smartphones – a pocket size farce is a commercial for our commercial addiction. As a matter of fact, the product placement references are so pervasive that Trap Door Theatre should be getting subsidized for the next ten years. Rather than subversively selling us more stuff though, Smartphones shines a silly light on our obsessive-compulsive techno-eccentricities and delivers an “LOL” good time in the process.
(“Smartphones – a pocket size farce” runs through August 18th at Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland. 773-384-0494)
Smartphones images by Michal Janicki.