nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 12, 2006
In a world where new social networking sites are popping up as frequently as spam in one's inbox, YourPlace...or Mine? is a timely satire on the virtual communities like My Space, LiveJournal, Friendster, etc., etc., etc.—where folks can create a page, create a virtual identity, and make virtual friends. Written by committee, the piece shows how these sites bring people together in a virtual world, but also how they keep them from connecting in the physical one. It pokes fun at the World Wide Web, as it tells the story of a loving sister coming to uneasy terms with her brother's death, to varying degrees of success.
When Frankie, played by Jennifer Strom Smith, loses her brother Jimmy in a drunk driving accident, she comes to collect his possessions. From his friends and roommates, she learns of YourPlace, and discovers that Jimmy had his own page on the site. Curious, she logs on and quickly becomes enmeshed in the virtual world. Unable to bring herself to look at her brother Jimmy's page, she collects other "Jimmies," and learns about these richly individual, quirky, and sometimes crazy folk who share her brother's name. It's a veritable sundae for Frankie, with Jimmies a' plenty. With a click of a mouse, she finds Jimmies all over the globe. What we don't learn is why Frankie is so scared to view her brother's page. What is she afraid she will find? Sadly, the question goes unanswered, and it's a huge disappointment. With all the Jimmies out there, we never really learn who Frankie's brother was.
The play feels youthful and inexperienced, and the scenes and characters don't always mesh elegantly, but the piece has spunk and a fun-filled zest for life. The writing is a bit repetitive and pedantic at times, and some of the web-cam/Internet porn jokes get old quickly. The web-based creation myth of "Tim," the God-like, mysterious, and almost mythical figure who created YourPlace isn't nearly as fascinating or funny as it is supposed to be, but the character himself, admirably played by David Sebren, is as compassionate, wry, wise, and self-deprecating as any deity could be. Other standouts in the capable and exuberant ensemble are Tim Boissey as Stoner Jimmy, Colin Norris as Scene Jimmy, and Chiara von der Goltz as the so-perky-you-want-to-strangle-her Ciao Bella.
YourPlace...or Mine? is freshly staged and directed by Kim Moore, who does a commendable job bringing parts of the Internet to life onstage. While the members of this motley crew clearly wish to link up, they feel they can only connect online, and true human contact, which is what they crave, is too scary, too threatening for them. They're only comfortable showing parts of themselves, instead of revealing the whole truth that they are fully flawed, fully human, beings. While the production falls short of its ambition, it offers an amusing slice of life on a social network, and its uncomfortable coexistence with the "real" world.