The 6 short plays grouped into “Mistakes & Media” take on 24-7 Internet & media culture with wit, weirdness.
Our modern culture of ubiquitous screens, 24-7 information, and infinite choice is rapidly upending and reinventing our jobs, our relationships, and even our collective sense of self. The Source Festival’s “Mistakes and Media“ looks at our hyper-mediated lives in six comic and dramatic shorts, all pointing to the conclusion that having the world at our fingertips is making us all a bit…crazy.
The show starts with Prince and Rapunzel, a fairytale take on our fraught Internet dating culture. Rapunzel (yes that Rapunzel) is desperately trying to find a prince, using, of all things, Tinder. Ruthie Rado carries the short with her quirky mannerisms, flowing red hair, and exasperated glances as each suitor reveals himself as more putz than prince. Ronnie Brown impressively cycles through a series of dating fails, each one funnier than the last. While the pacing was a little rough based on lightning fast costume changes and lighting miscues, Prince and Rapunzel is a nifty little shot across the bow of the online meat market.
The second outing, Palm, follows a girl with no memories grappling with the failing health of her only living relative. As lead Talita, Mackenzie Williams displays touching emotion, particularly during a raw monologue about her departing grandmother. The themes – memory, family, and notoriety – get a bit muddled as the perspective shifts quickly between three characters. No doubt it’s a challenge to create a cohesive arc in 10 minutes, but it feels like writer Graziella Jackson bit off a bit more than she could chew here.
Death of a Stupid Man ramps up the comedy by poking fun at our eroding ability to separate online and offline life. A man dies from walking into a wall while looking at his phone, which is captured on another phone and uploaded to YouTube, making him an instant postmortem YouTube celebrity. Robert Pike gives a standout performance as a maniacal paramedic who can’t stop laughing at the video, even as he’s supposed to be examining the man’s freshly dead body. The whole thing devolves into a weird internet fever dream that’s eerie in its closeness to how we actually consume media every day.
Connected dives even deeper down the rabbit hole of constant connection. AnnBjorg, a tech worker searching desperately for human interaction, meets a pair of apartment roommates who are so web-connected that they have never even met each other in person. Ronnie Brown and Ruthie Rado echo their chemistry from the first play as two twitchy, cracked out net addicts mystified at the idea of “talking” and “sitting quietly”. Best line: “The neighbors are complaining: you’re being too quiet – they can’t get anything done, or even sleep!”
Shorts: Mistakes & Media
June 5 – 28
1835 14th Street, NW
1 hour, 15 minutes
Tickets: $10 – $32
Details and Tickets or call 866.811.4111
The final play, The Sales Rank Also Rises, charts the trials and tribulations of being a writer in an era of Kindle and Amazon. Two married writers, one with a full publisher, one self-published, work and spar out of their home. The well matched Mackenzie Williams and Matt Strote clash and commiserate over things like word of mouth, entrepreneurship techniques, and the all-important sales rank. The play throws a nice curve by focusing less on the internet or media angle and more on the tricky nature of ambition and the little benefits of genuinely loving those close to you.
“Mistakes and Media” is a perceptive, breezy trip through the looking glass of our overly connected lives, and a strong start to the Source Festival indeed.
The 2015 Source Festival is produced by CulturalDC. Source Festival Artistic Director: Jenny McConnell Frederick.
Reviewed by Ben Demers.