Technodoulia Dot Com
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
August 15, 2011
As I took my seat at The Living Theater for the ensemble-driven performance-art piece Technodoulia Dot Com, I couldn’t help but notice two fellow playgoers sitting directly behind me, frantically tapping on their iPads with one hand and simultaneously fiddling with cellular devices with the other hand. As the house lights dimmed, the robotic-enhanced voice gave the familiar pre-show speech with a twist—encouraging the audience to live-tweet mid-show with the hashtag #technodoulia. It got a good laugh, but the folks behind me took it to heart and, though my suspicion is that they are heavily involved in the production, they kept their devices illuminated throughout the show, presumably live-documenting their experiences, thoughts and feelings about the play. (Because I am slowly morphing into a cranky old man who finds such behavior distracting during a traditional theater piece, I had to retrain my brain to try to accept that this may be the future, and who am I to fight it? No one else seemed to bat an eyelash.)
I dwell on this phenomenon because it is intrinsically linked to the very satirical heart of what Technodoulia Dot Com is all about—the complete interdependence at this point of humanity and the technological world and our increasing inability to separate the two. Breaking down the title, the Greek suffix doulia refers to slavery and techno to art or craft—and while deceptively simplistic it is a very apt label for the piece itself. Created by its performers in the Technoplay Company (all of whom are talented undergrads from Fordham University), it is a series of vignettes that illustrate both physically and verbally the perils of the modern world that increasingly defines itself by its virtual representation. In other words, they make fun of how much we all stare at rectangular devices with screens—and manage to make you think about it as you walk out the door.
Director Kate Gagnon keeps the pace brisk as the ensemble breezes through the mostly comic movements of a piece that pokes a lot of fun at some fairly standard topics (social media, porn pop-ups, online dating), yet the performers exude genuine youthful enthusiasm that help make the simple messages effective. For example, their spot-on "Social Media News Network" sketch hilariously roasts those of us (myself included) who believe that our day-to-day status updates on Twitter and Facebook are darn-near newsworthy events. Another fun sketch is about a guy who’s completely outgrown his MySpace account (created when he was a teenager) and he cannot delete because he has forgotten his password—all too common a complaint among many friends of mine. A poignant vignette about the memorial wall on a dead friend’s Facebook account staying open as a tribute hits close to home because as we all join a social media network, there is the possibility that our technology will outlive us, or achieve an immortality that the rest of us cannot. Technoplay is not telling the audience something we don’t already know—that we have our eyes glued to smartphones—but they are delivering the message in a subtle manner and Gagnon (and the cast) do a commendable job of not beating the audience over the head with it.
The final tableau of Technodoulia Dot Com is borderline gorgeous as the crowd of performers (well-costumed by Tara DeVincenzo) gather in the park to eat some ice cream. I will not spoil the ending other than to say that it is entirely apropos to the piece and is a thoughtful commentary on the way the vast majority of spend our day. Also, I stole a glance at the two audience members who were sitting behind me during what turned out to be the final scene—their iPads were off and they were watching the show. Maybe there is still hope after all.