Review: We're Not of Two Minds About "Give Me Away"

Give Me Away

Written by Mac Rogers

Directed by Jordana Williams

Presented by Gideon Media, with distribution from PRX

Episodic, beginning July 16, 2021

Cover art by Kate Kosma
Think about all that sharing your life with others--spouses, children, friends, lovers—entails. Now think about sharing it—you—with another consciousness—one that is literally alien. This is the resonant juxtaposition at the center of Give Me Away, an engrossing new, multi-season science fiction audio play written by prolific podcaster, playwright, and author of audio fiction Mac Rogers. The first season of Give Me Away is being presented in two parts, with Part One's episodes (discussed here) premiering on July 16, July 23, July 30, and August 6 and Part Two premiering episodes on September 17, September 24, October 1, October 8, and October 15. All episodes are free, and audiences can visit the show's page on Gideon Media to listen or to subscribe across all podcast platforms

At the opening of Give Me Away, the commitment between 50 year-old Graham (Sean Williams) and Morgan (Hanna Cheek) to permanently share their lives as husband and wife is faltering, as Morgan proposes a retreat for rebuilding intimacy to her resistant, skeptical spouse. Meanwhile, an unidentified alien structure, which comes, for good reason, to be nicknamed "The Ghost House," has arrived in the Nevada desert. Graham and Morgan's marriage may be ending—as they inform their children, female-presenting problem child Jamie (Diana Oh) and non-binary Talia (Dani Martineck), to contrasting reactions—but humanity's—and Graham's—involvement with The Ghost House is just beginning. As more is learned about what the Ghost House is and how it works, a program is created to essentially download the consciousnesses imprisoned there into human brains as "Seconds" who share the host's body and brain. Graham volunteers.

As Graham moves through the screening process throughout Part One, we not only learn more about living with a second, particularly through program head Brooke/Deirdre (Lori Elizabeth Parquet), and meet Lt. Riley (Ato Essandoh), a military officer, who, as in all good sci fi, has his own agenda, but we also explore the personal ramifications of Graham's decision for himself, his family, and even his and Morgan's longtime friend Travis (Nat Cassidy), who seems to have an ironic difficulty being alone. Inseparable from the sci-fi narrative is the development of a richer understanding of Graham's relationships, past and present; and balancing the more purely hypothetical questions (What are the ethics of romance with a Second? How does lying work? Is someone with a Second legally or grammatically one person or two?) are broadly relatable themes of empathy, the ways that others are part of us/our headspace, the complexities around making major life changes, and even a little bit of internet radicalization.
 
The multi-season episodic structure allows Give Me Away to really fill out its characters and let them breathe, while the individual episodes move at a good pace. Effective use of Graham as the primary point-of-view character inexorably draws listeners in, as Graham and we move from experiencing The Ghost House solely through secondhand reports to occupying its inmost spaces (a parallel to Graham's interior journey). These settings, owing to the audio format, are limited only by the audience's imaginations, aided of course by judicious deployment of sound effects and the fashioning of nuanced, distinct characters by the voice actors. Sci-fi fans might think of Black Mirror, Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy, and even Steven Universe as touchpoints, but Give Me Away (like Graham) is mapping its own path. With where it's taken us so far, plus a last-minute turn at the end of episode 4, we're eager to find out where it leads next.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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