Natalie Rine, Associate New York Critic
Me at the New Ohio theater door. Me not knowing how to open the door. Me pretending to be on the phone. Me slipping in when someone comes out. Me giving my name. Me laughing and smiling saying just one ticket needed, no one is with me. Me looking at the booze knowing I don’t have a dollar to spare right now. Me sitting alone. Me hearing others’ conversations about being artists. Me quietly drinking in the sight of the preshow set. Me thinking it looks like a stripped-down, futuristic room from The Matrix. Me squinting to take a mental image of the thrust stage with a projected title glaring at us alternating in all white caps “SEE YOU” and “NO PHONES.” Me turning my phone off. Me listening to the groovy preshow music blasting. I like “Dancing Queen,” “Lets Get It Started,” and “Material Girl.” Me taking a sharp inhale when the lights snap off, ready to begin “See You.”
Me getting used to the way the characters talk like this. Me realizing I am already used to this because of social media. Me realizing they are speaking through digital conversations mixed with real life. Me hesitant about a piece examining (my) entire generation that puts itself on public display on networking sites. Me wrong, eyes wide, hooked on every word, in awe that this was written originally in French in 2014, not in English here in America yesterday like it seems. Me ping-ponging between the verbal Olympics the five characters have embarked on. Me defining the characters based on how they define themselves: what they’ve seen, who they know, what they like. Me seeing them expose and overexpose themselves. Me watching them turn their lives into theater, into consumption. Me watching. Me consuming.
I like consuming the new text formatting for emphasis and new form exploration. I like briskly paced staging, exploring our lightning-fast modes of modern communication. I like design reflecting on how we define ourselves today, how we desire to project our own image and status and how they literally use projections. I like minimalist design that is multi-functional. I like the shedding of costumes as characters shed pretenses like snakeskin. I like electrifying, sharp acting choices. I like reverberating themes of technology and simultaneous interconnectivity yet distance in a digital age. I like tasteful jokes about how problematic Woody Allen is. I like folding my arms and digging my fingernails into my arm while watching the falling action. I like cringing. I like gasping. I like being stunned but not surprised. I saw Octet. I saw The Nether. But I like originality, shock value, and precise direction of an exhausting, exhilarating cast. I like social networks beginning to make their appearance on our stages, but I like the analysis and coherence this piece masters and triumphs. I like catching allusions faster than lightning. I like the feeling of scrolling through my newsfeed replicated in a theater. Me feeling the theatrical ground beneath me shift. Me enraptured.
I like the caricatured characters that make up a friend group. I like the frenetic, mousy blonde. I like the tough guy. I like the older activist. I like the party girl. I like the self-described connoisseur of taste. I like that they stereotype themselves (they like: The Office, The Godfather, Breaking Bad, Friends, 2001: A Space Odyssey respectively). They talk over one another, leaping and bounding off each other’s energy right on top of each other’s lines (and lives). They swallow one another’s identity by the end of the play. They convolute memory and reality and relatability. They show the two extremes of humanity— the highest highs (love, partying) and lowest lows (rape, violence, jail, death). They alternate between pangs of relatability and horror. They slap us in the face with shock value generating just as much reaction as two minutes earlier when we knowingly “aww” and “mmm” at innocuous internet behavior. They stun us.
I like lighting design showing mostly bright and white innocence versus a darker, shadowy contrast of their inner thoughts. I like that light pings around the space illuminating asides versus communal spaces. I like contrasting cyberspace with safe spaces with friends. I like sound design supporting a static explosion of confusion and dissonance and crossing of paths of these five friends navigating in life and online. I like this quote by the playwright that disturbs me to my core, illuminating why you must run to see See You, for it already sees through us:
“In killing God, we gouged out the omniscient eye that gave meaning to each of our actions. He saw everything I did; and everything I did, I did for Him. Our cell phone cameras, omniscient by their omnipresence, have replaced the empty eye-socket and it is now the Other, the friend, who plays the role of witness to my existence, publicly and privately.” -Guillaume Corbeil
“See You” written by Guillaume Corbeil, is presented in its US premiere by The Bridge Production Group at the New Ohio Theatre, directed by Max Hunter. Cast includes Hamish Allan-Headley, Crawford M. Collins, Adriane Moreno, Charlie Reid, and Christina Toth. Creative team includes Steven McCarthy (English translation), Cheyenne Sykes (Lighting and Projection Design), Seth Byrum (Scenic Design), and Nicolle Allen (Costume Design). Run time is about seventy minutes, no intermission.
“See You” runs at The New Ohio (154 Christopher St #1E, New York, NY 10014) until September 21, 2019. For more information, please visit https://www.bridgeproductiongroup.org/.
Photo: Crawford M. Collins, Christina Toth, Adriane Moreno, and Charlie Reid by Callum Adams.