Review: Smartphones – A Pocket-Size Farce

| July 22, 2012
Jodi Kingsley as Chantal and Geraldine Dulex as Amelia, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams.        
       
Smartphones:
    A Pocket-Size Farce
 

Written and Directed by Emilio Williams  
Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland (map)
thru Aug 18  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     


     
       

(No) exit, stage left

     

Geraldine Dulex, in the poster for Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams.

    
Trap Door Theatre presents
    
Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce

Review by Clint May 

Ah, what a refreshing thing a good farce can be on a hot summer day. In a nation with a drought of not just rain but quality satire, the premiere of Emilio WilliamsSmartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce delivers a quirky little comedy with a sneakily smart dose of both old and new humor. Taking aim at our new age networking neurosis, it mines the depths of surrealist and existential storytelling to create a brisk, hilarious mirror reflecting our shared insecurities. We laugh in self defense, knowing that the melodramatic personalities on display more often than not accurately ape a 21st Jodi Kingsley as Chantal and Chris Popio as Barnaby, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams.century obsession.

In a two-tone world of only grays and pinks straight out of a 60s mod fantasy, two married couples and former college mates sit and wait for a (possibly fictional) shared friend Fidet. His ephemeral presence looms large only in the egocentric decoration of his repeating silhouette that adorns his spotless suite of practically unused rooms. First to arrive is the bimbo Barbie Amelia (Geraldine Dulex), followed closely by her gruff hothead husband Barnaby (Chris Popio). There’s a delicious semantic discussion of just how each one gained access—do they have their own keys, or was the door open? And was it open, or ajar, or just ‘left unclosed.’ This to disguise each one trying to figure out just how much of Fidet’s coveted confidence the other has to themselves. Arriving together, the pseudo-intellectual Chantal (Jodi Kingsley) and mewling husband Dagobert (Antonio Brunetti) take their place next to their “friends” in the living room and drama proper begins.

Each is not only self-absorbed but totally absorbed into their smartphones, anxiously awaiting the reflected glory of being the first to get a text from Fidet telling of his expected arrival, or to see a Tweet of his that would give some clue to his location. None of them seem to know how to interact with the other without the artifice of the phone, their digital interlocutor and bastion of narcissism. Their strained relationships are tested as one by one their smartphones fall prey to various cruel fates, leaving them bereft of a pacifier and unaware of how to make proper eye contact. Secrets are revealed, relationships tested and most egregious of all, acquaintances unfriended on Facebook (the horror!).

Meta-humor abounds, as do Brechtian flourishes of spoken stage direction and a cast that becomes increasingly aware they are inhabiting a cruel farce with a fourth wall that only tenuously holds the audience at bay. Fidet’s absence is an acknowledged tongue-in-cheek reference to the true inspiration for the piece: Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. By overtly referencing Godot, Williams’ sympathetically demonstrates that humans have found lots of strange ways "to hold the terrible silence at bay" since long before smartphones came along. The four’s interactions recall the dialogue of Sartre’s No Exit, and both plays are acknowledged by Chantal as she postulates on their peculiar predicament while simultaneously needing her phone to remind her of everyday phrases (like “spotty coverage”). Though each character references an outside world—including the Indian store around the corner—they are claustrophobically relegated to this single room and its repeating absurdist motifs of trying to buy whisky but always coming back with the wrong liquor or a strange shoe upon a table or the terror of a land line phone ringing.

Geraldine Dulex as Amelia, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams. Chris Popio as Barnaby, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams. Mariana Leite as Maria, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams.

Trap Door’s expert cast sidesteps many of the pitfalls of farces. Namely, they approach the threshold of shrill energy but always keep it properly contained within the confines of their own outsized caricatures. Under William’s direction, they each preen in a pocket of their own perversion. It’s a little shameful to see how closely these exaggerated people mirror our everyday lives, and that’s the most critical aspect of any absurdist story: to take us to the brink of an unreal insanity to show us just how close we already are. This is a world where the only confidence to be garnered is the kind you glean for yourself through a simulacrum of one’s own inflated sense of self—and I’m not talking about the production.

Funny and surreal, with just enough old-school intelligence and unabashed love of its progenitors, Smartphones asks for an hour of time to poke a little smart (but not smug) fun at our not-so-modern-as-we-want-to-think foibles. It’s got just a hint of a chilling undertone that may make us wary of a device that is becoming smarter than us. Walking out into the lobby afterwards, a half dozen faces light up from below as if preparing to tell a ghost story. Did I detect a certain sheepish smile pulling at their lips?

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce continues through August 18th at Location, 1655 W. Cortland (map), with performances Wednesdays thru Saturdays at 8pm.  Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (773-384-0494) or online through TicketLeap.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at TrapDoorTheatre.com(Running time: 65 minutes, no intermission)

Jodi Kingsley as Chantal and Geraldine Dulex as Amelia, in Trap Door Theatre's "Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce", written and directed by Emilio Williams.


     

artists

cast

Antonio Brunetti (Dagobert), Geraldine Dulex (Amelia), Jodi Kingsley (Chantal), Chris Popio (Barnaby), Mariana Leite (Maria)

behind the scenes

Emilio Williams (writer, director); Mariana Leite, Gary Damico (asst. directors); Brian Sidney Bembridge (set); Richard Norwood (lighting); Tonette Navarro (costumes); Gabriel Dib (original music); Skye Fort (stage manager); Zsofia Otvos (makeup); Michal Janicki (graphics); Justin Verstraete (fight choreograph)

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Clint May, New Work, Trapdoor Theatre, World Premier

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