Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart
nytheatre.com review by Amy E. Witting
December 2, 2010
Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart, written by Australian playwright Lally Katz, is an ambitious play that promises to explore what it means to be "alive" when we spend our lives in virtual worlds. The concept of using an art form that dates back to Ancient Greece and marrying it to the phenomenon of social networking is brave, and has the potential to make a grand statement. Unfortunately, Goodbye New York doesn't quite deliver.
Set in the virtual world of MySpace New York, the play introduces us to Caroline, who is escaping from her life in Thornbury, Australia. Her friend Japan, who later decides to go to Twitter Tokyo, has just become a "suicide," and she has asked Caroline to be the maid of honor. Caroline hops on a virtual plane to linger in MySpace New York for the wedding. At the wedding she meets Thornbury, and decides it's destiny to create a life with him since he shares a name with her hometown. Caroline spends more time with Thornbury's father than with Thornbury setting up the delusion that they are in a relationship. Katz sets up a very interesting world of "suicides" versus "avalanche dwellers" but so much information is jammed packed into the ninety minute piece that it's difficult to follow.
We have the central story of a woman disappointed with the current state of her life losing herself inside the cyber-world, and the sub-plot of a father and son struggling to relate. "My son wants to get out of my heart, and I want to find his," is one of the more genuine moments of the piece. It also presents us with a question of the generational differences that I wish Katz explored more. While the press release states that in Katz's cyber-universe "you can download almost anything—even emotions—and the dead still live," I couldn't quite follow who was alive, and who was dead, and if the suicides where a simple deactivating of a social networking account, or if Caroline was grappling with the decision to kill herself due to the fantasy social networking can create. There is an awkward scene at the top of the Empire State Building between Caroline and Thornbury's mother that seemed to blur these lines of reality. Overall the piece walks a fine line between social commentary and creating a crisp world of the psyche of those who get lost inside virtual reality.
While Nicolle Bradford as Caroline is on stage the entire ninety minutes, and I commend her for her endurance, it's the supporting cast that truly shines in this piece. The minute Claire and Sally, played by Danielle Slavick and Erin Maya Darke, walked on stage my attention perked. Claire and Sally are caffeine-addicted baristas struggling with dyslexia. Their coffee shop is hosting an "Avalanche Dwellers Anonymous" meeting, and it was fun watching the two actresses feed off each other's energy as they flitted around stage. There is a wonderful scene set in the coffee shop when the leader of Avalanche Dwellers Anonymous, brilliantly executed by the very talented Polly Lee, gives a motivational speech ending with "And Then" instead of Amen because "It's more hopeful." Through these characters Katz's humor and delightful words really shine.
The set design, by Valerie Therese Bart, provides interesting angles complete with an abstract structure that I was secretly hoping the cast of ten would find themselves climbing on, but was satisfied when it was discovered it represented the Brooklyn Bridge.
Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart poses eerie questions about the future of social networking, and how unconnected we might all become, and I do hope it opens eyes to some real life suicides and avalanche dwellers living among us.