Stu­dent play tele­graphs re­la­tion­ships through tech

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - JOEL RUBINOFF Water­loo Re­gion Record

What do you get when you blend TV’s fu­tur­is­tic “Black Mir­ror,” “The Twi­light Zone” and the 2004 mem­ory-wip­ing ro­mance flick, “Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind”?

Prob­a­bly some­thing like “To­mor­rowLove,” a tech-friendly the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion about fic­tional in­ven­tions that spark change in the re­la­tion­ships of seven cou­ples in seven dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the fu­ture.

Take the In­fi­nite Space Re­frig­er­a­tor, which looks like a reg­u­lar fridge but ex­pands to hold ev­ery­thing you could ever buy — lit­er­ally.

“Why do we need in­fi­nite space?” ques­tions An­drea Don­ald­son, the award-win­ning Toronto di­rec­tor over­see­ing this Uni­ver­sity of Water­loo stu­den­tacted pro­duc­tion.

“Can’t enough be enough? I am du­bi­ous of hu­mans want­ing more and big­ger.”

The tech is a cat­a­lyst for self­dis­cov­ery, she points out, in each of the the­mat­i­cally linked playlets adapted from Toronto play­wright Rosamund Small’s ac­claimed 2016 pro­duc­tion.

“It’s about how tech brings us to­gether and tears us apart. It de­pends on each per­son’s per­spec­tive.” Dur­ing the play’s Toronto run, crit­ics were en­tranced by Small’s “im­mer­sive” at­tempt to ex­plore hu­man re­la­tion­ships through fu­tur­is­tic tech, with the Toronto Star cit­ing the play for its “abil­ity to con­vey com­plex ideas in brief in­ter­ludes, leav­ing room for hu­mour and pathos.”

But that was a more am­bi­tious ver­sion that in­cluded 15 playlets and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion from the au­di­ence.

By con­sol­i­dat­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing the play into a more tra­di­tional for­mat, Don­ald­son hopes to make it more ac­ces­si­ble.

“My hunch was that this com­mu­nity would re­spond to this,” notes the for­mer as­sis­tant artis­tic di­rec­tor of Toronto’s Tar­ragon The­atre.

“Rosamund has a youth­ful con­tem­po­rary feel­ing to her writ­ing and Water­loo is known to

be a tech hub.”

It’s an in­no­va­tive play, she notes, and in the stodgy stu­dent the­atre world of 2018, that’s a move in the right di­rec­tion.

“Uni­ver­si­ties can get stuck in a rut with a Cana­dian canon of plays from the ‘80s and ‘90s,” she muses. “This is an op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce (Rosamund) to stu­dents and her work.”

Along with the mon­ster fridge, there’s an in­ven­tion that al­lows peo­ple to erase for­mer part­ners from their mem­ory and one that al­lows Skype ses­sions with dead lovers, a the­matic thrust that, for Don­ald­son, prompts larger philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions.

“As much as I think the im­pulse to con­nect with some­body you love deep­ens af­ter they die, I can’t help but think the de­sire to live as long as we can is ac­tu­ally a darker hu­man urge.

“My life goal is not to pre­serve my­self but to live well, to ac­cept the in­evitabil­ity of death.”

One thing that sur­prised her was the re­ac­tion of the stu­dent ac­tors, far more open-minded about tech, she notes, than peo­ple a gen­er­a­tion older.

“They hap­pen to be a re­ally op­ti­mistic group,” notes Don­ald­son. “The ma­jor­ity were ba­si­cally pro-tech­nol­ogy.

“Af­ter the first read-through they were adamant that we not present only a doom-and-gloom per­spec­tive.”

For­tu­nately, the play, penned by a fel­low mil­len­nial, re­spects this view, mak­ing no de­fin­i­tive state­ments about tech as a force for good or evil.

“Tech­nol­ogy is not a new phe­nom­e­non,” points out Don­ald­son, striv­ing for per­spec­tive. “It’s some­thing we’re al­ways imag­in­ing and in­vent­ing — and it al­ways will be.”

JAMES LIU

Jess Ber­trand in “To­mor­rowLove.” A se­ries of the­mat­i­cally-linked playlets set in seven dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the near fu­ture where one piece of tech­nol­ogy is de­vel­oped to help hu­mans in their re­la­tion­ships.

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