Sunday, July 17, 2016

Privacy *** B

The collaboration between London’s Donmar Warehouse and the Public Theater is off to a good start with this ingenious production created by writer James Graham and director Josie Rourke. Substantially revised from the 2014 Donmar version, the play is an informative essay on the uses and abuses of cybersurveillance, wrapped in the tale of an emotionally closed British writer who moves to New York to learn to open up a bit (or is it really just to pursue his ex?). The admirable Daniel Radcliffe, who never repeats himself in his choice of roles for the New York stage, plays the writer. The other actors — De’adre Aziza, Raffi Barsoumian, Michael Countryman, Rachel Dratch and Reg Rogers — skillfully play a multitude of roles including psychiatrist, parents, neighbors, cyberexperts and intelligence agency officials. We even get an appearance on video by Edward Snowden. There’s also an onstage digital researcher (Harry Davies). Audience participation is an important part of the proceedings. People are urged to turn on their cellphones (silent mode, of course), log onto the theater’s wi-fi network, use Google, take selfies and email photos of favorite New York locales. None of this material goes to waste. The first act sets up the basic situation and settles the writer in New York. In the second act, both funnier and scarier, he ventures into the world of online dating. Radcliffe is front and center the whole time except for a lengthy episode in Act Two which begins as a case of identity theft and turns into something darker. There's a demonstration of the mountain of information collected by one's smartphone that is truly alarming. Lucy Osborne’s set is simple but witty; it features the ultimate overstuffed couch for analysis and a New York skyline made of Amazon cartons. Duncan McLean’s projections add a lot, including identifying the many characters. Paul Tazewell’s costumes are unobtrusive. Occasionally the informative and entertainment elements of the play get in each other’s way. At other times the material threatens to become repetitive. Nevertheless, it makes for a most unusual theatrical experience. Too bad the entire run is virtually sold out. Running time: 2 1/2 hours including intermission.

No comments: