nytheatre.com review by Will Fulton
August 13, 2010
So the Internet—kind of a big deal. Not since Gutenberg's printing press has a new medium so rapidly and thoroughly changed the way our society functions. In the 20 years that the World Wide Web has existed, it has infiltrated virtually every aspect of our public and private lives, and shows no signs of slowing down. While the Large Hadron Collider may be the largest contiguous machine we have ever built, it pales in comparison to the Internet, which has grown at such an alarmingly high rate that it has outpaced our ability to map it, taking on unpredictable and almost organic qualities. Unless someone has kindly printed this review out for you, you are on it right now. The brave (or foolhardy) young artists of Everywhere Theatre Group have taken this enormous subject head-on in their aptly-titled ensemble-created piece, The Internet.
They accomplish this daunting task by reducing all of its complexities and abstractions to the deeply human elements at its core. The narratives that fill their cyberscape are familiar ones: stories of love, of loss, of misunderstandings, of loneliness. Rather than trying to include everything, directors Lindsay Mack and Leah Winkler wisely focus only on the social elements of the Internet, so we spend most of our time on well-worn sites like Gmail, OKCupid and Facebook. Beneath the slick interfaces this is a seething, vibrant world full of people longing to be seen and heard. Although the means may be new, the motives are as old as time. The universally strong cast creates this world with the deeply-felt conviction of those who inhabit it every day. They show the intimate understanding of the generation that has grown up alongside and inside it.
In form the piece mirrors its subject matter's diversity by utilizing a pastiche of dance, movement, video, scenes, and songs. While certainly frenetic at times, the piece never loses focus, and all of these disparate elements flow together seamlessly to give the impression of a single, dynamic landscape. Mack and Winkler deftly manage our attention with smooth transitions of moments emerging from and receding back into the landscape. The balance between stillness and motion, extravagance and intimacy, is spot on. Teddy Nicholas's lighting design very effectively supports this, savvily providing the shifting structure necessary to articulate this kind of virtual space. While Chase Voorhees's sound design is similarly intelligent (I was incredibly pleased that the show began with the nostalgia-inducing sound of a dial-up modem), it's his masterful video design that truly stands out. The swooping camera and its slight upward angle to the pages manages to make the seemingly mundane act of typing into a viable stage action.
As a word of warning, the Internet is full of porn, and accordingly this piece has its fair share of explicit content, both on video and on stage, but executed with pitch-perfect tastelessness. That being said, I would heartily recommend The Internet to anyone looking for a fun and insightful night of theatre. The ensemble has created a piece with equal parts love and skepticism that demonstrates the uniquely insightful position of the last generation to remember a time before the Internet changed everything. Everywhere Theatre Group has given us an affecting reminder that immense and abstract as it may be, at the end of the day the Internet is made of people.