The Connected: Bundle #1
nytheatre.com review by Edward Elefterion
August 12, 2012
Brian LaPerche’s play The Connected: Bundle #1 is kind of a mess. No, it’s definitely a mess, but there’s something there. I don’t think it helps that he also plays the lead because when a play’s as jumbled and far-flung as this, the playwright needs to have his full attention on addressing it. But LaPerche is acting so it’s no surprise that he’s lost the plot…or just has too darn many and none of them well developed.
The play includes plots about Babel, a tech company that’s a stand-in for Apple, Babel’s exploitation of Asian workers overseas, an Asian worker suffering from poor working conditions and neglect, the CEO of Babel and his journey to find his father who abandoned him and his brother, his brother’s relationship with the leader of a civil liberties group protesting Babel’s exploitative practices, and a chorus of three (two of whom do not speak) that…I don’t know what they’re aiming to achieve, but they physicalize different ideas as other characters talk, so basically they either trump or get trumped by the parts they’re meant to illuminate. The production also utilizes projections that end up further complicating an already unfocused experience.
Like the playwright, the director has too many ideas and centers on none of them. Instead of helping focus and clarify the relationships and work with dramaturges Ida Beiring and Rachel Peck to help the playwright hone the text, the director adds unnecessary flourishes that muddy already turbid waters. The bottom line is that Cody Holliday Haefner’s production lacks the unity that the play so desperately needs and his directorial choices often work against the text. For example, several central and lengthy scenes were literally marginalized by being staged so far stage left that, unless you’re sitting over there, you’re apt to just listen instead of strain to watch.
The good news is that in the morass of material, one story is more interesting than the rest…the exploited Asian worker and her struggle. The bad news is that the play was produced prematurely. One could argue that if you’re going to produce something before it’s ready, the Fringe is the best place to do it. I’d agree. But better still: invite a rigorous, limited audience to a workshop of the material and go from there, don’t present it as finished in a festival…where it’ll be reviewed by a critic who, by now, you’re not too fond of.
There’s a lot of energy around this production, and I’m glad to see people making theatre about timely, socially relevant subjects. It was just hard to connect to The Connected: Bundle #1 because it bundled too many subjects together in ways that only kept them apart…from each other and from me. None of it was clear enough or developed enough to care about.