i google myself
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 21, 2007
Suppose you found out that a porn star had the same name as you, and you became obsessed with meeting him.
Suppose you were a porn star, and from out of the blue a fan got in touch with you, told you he had the same name as you, and wanted to meet you.
Suppose that from out of the blue you got an email from some guy who said he went to junior high school with you, and that now he's a porn star using your name as his "stage" name.
These are the three what-ifs that fuel the tangled plot of i google myself, the elegant new thriller by Jason Schafer that's currently being presented by Theatre Askew. The best thing about the play is the fact that Schafer lets us see this crazy triangle from the perspectives of the men at each of its points. Rather than treading a Hitchcockian path of escalating danger and deceit encircling a single innocent victim, Schafer posits that none of us is innocent and follows all three of his characters—who share the same name; or at least they say they do—as they play mind games with one another.
At the center is the one known in the program simply as "One," the guy who initiates the chain of events. He works at Home Depot and says he's recently ended his marriage; yet without explanation or apology he admits to being entirely turned on by and obsessed with "Two," the star of gay porn films whom he has managed to meet, albeit under false pretenses.
One also drags Three into the equation: after he learns that Two appropriated Three's name for his porn-star moniker (and after Two storms away from One in disgust, thinking him to be a bit of a looney-tunes), One uses his Google skills to locate Three, and stir the pot up a bit more.
Then things escalate and turn dangerous. Everybody lies (note, for example that I carefully called Two a star of gay porn rather than a gay porn star). There are beatings; people go to jail; people get movie deals. Each of One, Two, and Three winds up possessing something that the other two desire. Each of One, Two, and Three proves that there is often no end to human manipulativeness and tenacity in obtaining what one desires...and, apparently, no end to human gullibility.
i google myself is a canny Internet Age thriller, but it's really finally about something eternal in human nature, namely, that we are often very willing to pretend to be what we're not, and just as often we're just as willing to believe that others are what we want them to be. Schafer trades on a vexing paradox of our permissive and connected era: we can reveal more about ourselves (literally and figuratively) to more people with less effort than at any prior moment in history, but at the same time we can hide behind anonymity more effectively than ever before as well.
If Schafer doesn't plumb deeply into this concept, he uses it smashingly in this play; the denouement feels a little rushed and maybe even unearned, but the breathless pace of the thing, which is splendidly realized by director Jason Jacobs, is relentless and compelling, and nothing feels unbelievable or even contrived.
Jacobs has assembled a top-notch cast to bring i google myself to life, led by the always invaluable Tim Cusack as One, at once lovable and creepy, smart and foolish, out of his mind yet eerily and worryingly grounded. Nathan Blew is terrific as the porn star, Two, conveying the overconfidence that comes from displaying one's wares regularly to a paying audience, as well as the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy that, perhaps, are natural corollaries of same. As Three, John Gardner is equally fine; he's the most seemingly "ordinary" guy in this remarkable tale, and he anchors it appropriately.
The production design is excellent, particularly Matthew Pritchard's evocative soundscape. This is a very entertaining 75 minutes in the theatre, and the notions that sit at its foundation will gnaw at you for days afterward.