“We all live in stories,” says David J. Goldberg, actor, YouTube enthusiast, and, quite possibly, victim of a vast collusion of intelligence operatives who are conspiring to drive humanity into a state of total enslavement via information control.
And it’s true, the stories part, that is. Science has proven that our memories of our motivations are merely ex post facto reconstructions. We tell ourselves tales about ourselves, the people we meet, and our place in the world as we try to make sense of things that are too complex for the mind to handle.
But there are dangerous stories to live in, like radical religion or paranoid delusions, that are equally stories, but also places where it is unhealthy to dwell. What makes TARGET GOLDBERG so successful is that it rides that hair-thin line between the narratives of normal life and those of madness.
The setup of TARGET GOLDBERG reflects this. Walking into Chaos on F Street, we find a gentleman looking very much like a consultant in business attire, ready to present a slide deck at a client meeting. A familiar sight to any workaday Washingtonian. But he is surrounded by recording instruments and other strange devices, and he insists all audience members cover their phones in aluminum foil to prevent access by outside nefarious organizations. Audience members laugh at his seeming craziness, but he delivers the request with the normalcy and slight embarrassment of a flight attendant asking you to buckle your seatbelt.
He begins the story (in which he lives) very much like a TED Talk created in someone’s basement, pointing out our dependency on the flow of information and the potential dangers of that dependence. Then he gets a call on his conspicuously unfoiled cell phone, and this is where, as the kids say, it starts to get weird. He tells of being approached by someone who claims to be an agent of the federal government and play, for they claim that Mr. Goldberg is the target of a conspiracy, to frame him for a terrorist attack on Union Station.
This frame story is what makes TARGET GOLDBERG work. It strikes fear into the heart of any Washingtonian. Not only that such an attack could happen, but also that somehow, someway they would be caught up in the frenzy related to finding whomever would perpetrate such an act. This is the point when I realized that TARGET GOLDBERGis not just your average insane litany of conspiracy theories that you might see in any solo show on Fringe stages.
TARGET GOLDBERG (HELP! ROGUE GOVERNMENT AGENTS ARE TRYING TO FRAME ME!)
Written and performed by David J Goldberg
Details and tickets
TARGET GOLDBERG is a horror story. It highlights the normalcy of the fear of violence which we live through every day, and our subjugation to the media and law enforcement narratives produced in the wake of such an attack. More than that, it highlights how any of us would be powerless in the situation that Goldberg faces.
From a technical acting perspective, Goldberg’s story has a fine amount of texture to it. Goldberg the author has given his “character” ups and downs, some unexpected, balancing his “real self” and his “paranoid self” very well. As an actor, Goldberg obviously has talent, especially for psychological realism.
I can’t say the same for the writing. TARGET GOLDBERG has a clear beginning, if not thrilling inciting incident. It has a tension-building middle. But without giving anything away, I was left disappointed by the pointedly unpointed ending. There’s an argument that could be made that TARGET GOLDBERG is ongoing because its dependence on the line blurring fiction and reality necessitates an open ending. But my job is to judge a work based on its dramatic impact. And by the end, it left me wanting too much.
Even so, TARGET GOLDBERG is a well-acted work with a clever premise that exceeded my expectations.I’d recommend it for those who either enjoy or are worried over conspiracy theories, people who like possibly true storytelling with a creepy twist, or audiences who are big X-Files fans. You can decide for yourself if Goldberg’s story is true. The Truth, and this play, are out there.
Target Goldberg by David J. Goldberg. Directed by Conrad Kluck . Featuring David J. Goldberg. Produced by Beloved Mountain Productions . Reviewed by Alan Katz.