In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter what sort of memorial he wanted. “I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this,” he said, putting his hand on his desk, “and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building….I want it plain without any ornamentation, with the simple carving, ‘in memory of’”.
You can go to West Basin Drive and see what he got.
Of course, Roosevelt was a great man. But my father was a great man, too – so was yours, probably – and all he got was a spot in a community mausoleum, with his name and dates. And so it has been since the dawn of civilization, with all but the greatest of the great consigned to a humble burial plot, generally marked with no more than a simple stone.
But not any more! Thanks to the virtually unlimitedvirtual resources of the internet, we can all have virtual memorials the size of planets, and funeral obsequies which would embarrass a Caesar. And in Facebook in Memoriam, one of three Source Festival Artistic Blind Dates, Elizabeth Dinkova, Rachel Hynes, and Jennifer Restak seize on this development and shake it around with unrelenting glee, presenting at once a savage satire and a melancholy tale of loss.
We are in the Source’s upstairs parlor, listening to the dolorous drone of faux-Facebook advertising (“click here for a designated mourner,” a disembodied voice invites, before telling us to click here to discover a new way to remove three inches of belly fat). Suddenly, Hynes, Restak and Caitlin Crombleholme (Dinkova directs) burst out to introduce us to the funeral. They are the designated mourners, which is to say, cheerleaders for the deceased. They jump and shake as the photoshopped background screen – a combination Super Bowl and Cirque de Soleil – roars its approval. And yes, there is shop talk. And audience participation.
And then they become real people. Hynes is a woman whose friend froze to death on a hike. Restak’s character lost her sister to complications from a diabetic coma. And Crombleholme becomes someone who lost her lover in battle in Afghanistan. They deal with their grief, within and without Facebook, on terms real and virtual. They experience an outpouring of grief and support from people they’ve never met – from people who don’t even know the deceased. And, inevitably, there are the trolls – those who hide behind the internet’s anonymity to exercise the cretinous impulses they are afraid to display in public.
FACEBOOK IN MEMORIAM
Source Festival at
1835 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
Running time: 20 minutes
Details and Tickets
The devisers of this story have put together a provocative set of ideas, and the performers sell it easily and unselfconsciously. Hynes – who also designed the play’s masks – shows a particular ease with the audience, helping to bridge a formidable gap between the world of the story and the…well, the world. Artistic Blind Dates have in the past put artists of different disciplines together, with sometimes awkward results. This particular Blind Date matched three practitioners in the same field – all are experienced with devised theater – and the result was impressively coherent.
Facebook In Memoriam . An Artistic Blind Date .Created by Elizabeth Dinkova, Rachel Hynes and Jennifer Restak. Performed by Hynes, Restak and Caitlin Crombleholme . Produced by the Source Festival/Cultural DC . Reviewed by Tim Treanor.