Review: "The Living Room Plays" Interrogate How We Live With Each Other
The Living Room Plays
Presented by Eden Theater Company via Zoom
July 16, 2020
Written and performed by Annie Larussa and Mark Moses
Devised by Amanda Enzo with Diane Davis; performed by Amanda Enzo; directed by Diane Davis
Written by Mario Louis Gonzalez; directed by Ran Xia; featuring Frank HumphreyThe second in Eden Theater Company's three-part series of "room plays"—short plays performed on Zoom that explore some aspect of the isolation that has defined American life under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—shifts from the bedroom to the living room (you can read our review of The Bedroom Plays here). The Living Room Plays features three more diverse responses to the series's theme (one of which moves beyond the context of the pandemic, a first for the series so far). There is a greater emphasis on the social this time around, as opposed to the focus on individual experience in The Bedroom Plays, which is perhaps an effect of the additional temporal distance from the initial shock of adjustment—as well, perhaps, of the fact that one cannot contemplate isolation without contemplating relationality. And addressing a vital area of social relations, the performance itself acted as a benefit, with all donations given to the Equal Justice Initiative, which "is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society."
|Mark Moses and Annie Larussa. Photo courtesy Emily Owens PR|
|Amanda Enzo. Photo courtesy Emily Owens PR|
The final play of the trio, Mario Louis Gonzalez's snapped-shot, takes place in an America in even worse shape than the one that we currently occupy. The protagonist, named Freedom (Frank Humphrey), lives in a United States destroyed by nuclear conflict (and his living room looks more like a garage). Freedom passes the time debating with Fallen, an aspect of himself rendered as an off-screen voice. The conversation that we witness begins with asking what matters and thinking about how people look for connection, even if the ways in which they do are themselves meaningless. In part through relating the conversation to how life on Earth used to be, Freedom/Fallen ends up (re)considering Abraham Lincoln, whom Freedom sees as a hero, and the Civil War, which Fallen asserts is the same old conflict of rich versus rich, with emancipation a result rather than a motivation (evidenced by the way that the country then found a way to maintain slavery economically). Again, questions of who creates and controls narratives and from what perspectives come to the fore, and Humphrey brings a jittery energy to his lone post-apocalyptic survivor Freedom that both contrasts to his comparatively unruffled Fallen and lends urgency to "their" disagreements.
The Living Room Plays evolves the Eden Theater Company's isolation-themed short play series in new directions from the initial installment that are perhaps more biting if equally entertaining. Intimate in scope and expansive in aim, The Living Room Plays take audiences on a journey through the ways that we do, don't, and might make room to live with one another.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards