nytheatre.com review by Megin Jimenez
June 14, 2008
I, Object!, created by Cory Einbinder, Kalle Macrides and Jared Mezzocchi, playfully poses questions about our relationship to the inanimate world and the ways humans invest objects with lives of their own. The piece examines three characters in moments of crisis: a graduate student with a looming thesis deadline (Macrides), a fed-up office worker longing for escape (portrayed wonderfully by Einbinder), and a man dealing with the recent loss of his grandfather—and the massive collection of pennies he has inherited (Mezzocchi). We easily settle in to alternating scenes of each character's anxiety and solitude building to a fever pitch. As the neurosis builds, the surrounding objects take over: pennies fall in a hailstorm, Microsoft Word goes wild, and the most banal office supplies reveal a secret dancing life, among other delights.
Technology in particular becomes a curious artifact in the piece, with its ability to change shape, correct us, and even become a part of us. The characters ponder the perils of Spell Check, the similarities between jpegs and memory, and the possibility of fleeing into a MacBook's lush, standard screen saver images. The play could not bat around such synapse-firing concepts without its sense of humor. (Derrida, semiotics, and Descartes are somehow painlessly slipped in.) A weird and whimsical sensibility permeates, though at times could be pushed further. A faux-academic examination of the email sorting process promises to poke some fun at an obsessive and familiar practice, but turns a tad tedious. The engaging spirit of "Grandpa" (brought delightfully to life by Talaura Harms's puppetry) begs for some corresponding energy from Mezzocchi's aggrieved grandson, but the two seem to belong to different plays.
However, any bumps in the script are overshadowed by the shape-shifting visual feast and fresh surprises emerging in each scene. A collaborative process among disciplines is clear: music, puppets, animation, and live video are all thrown into the mix, and all work some serious magic. The use of video projection in particular is a great deal of fun to watch and put to its best use. Unlike many theatrical multimedia experiments, which are often simply showy to no particular end, I, Object! makes video integral to the various stories with seamless execution. The music and sound design by Zak Engel is also a vital presence and an apt expression of the mysterious life of things.
The longer I, Object! opens up its box of tricks, the longer we want to stay in this world. By the time the climax of objects incarnate arrives, we are left breathlessly hoping for an equally compelling denouement. But perhaps it is better that this second act never materializes, as the last fanciful tableau is the one to take home with you, whether to complete the characters' story, hold up as a chuckle-inducing cartoon, or, if you're in the mood for some mental weightlifting, contemplate as a metaphor for how technology is influencing what human beings are becoming.