by Marcina Zaccaria
Director Samantha Shay is testing the bounds of Zoom, adding quotes, live screen texting, Social Media posts, and dance out on a beach. She is obsessed with “intimate relationships through the void” throughout In These Uncertain Times.
Enduring COVID-19 is near impossible for the performers. What is seen is the hodge-podge world they have built for themselves after the real health crisis had begun. Perhaps, a postmodernist’s dream come true, with images and text from a vast assortment of sources that include Todd London’s “Art of Theater” – Source Material presents green grass growing from beneath a moving subway, internet posts that make us aware of the day, time, and place. Building all new structure by utilizing framing, juxtaposition, tempo, and duration, they rant out at the screen, revealing their heart’s desire.
They long for a place where they can resolve the absolute boredom of living in isolation. Jumping on a trampoline or jetting out to the beach, their wild world is informed by the type of theater they honor. When the black and white past from silent film almost eclipses their existence, they stand in recognition of their present, always heard, always on the screen.
What remains is a response to quarantine culture, and the WTF experience of living through COVID. If all six performers didn’t look 21 – 22 years old, (although their credits lead me to believe they are a bit older), I wouldn’t say that it felt like watching “Reality Bites” or “My So-Called Life” reborn, really amped up and out loud for the Zoom era. I imagined that Source Material’s edge developed somehow during the insanity of Obama regulations in California, reaching a peak at the announcement of the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, I heard the rich Chekhovian theater texts they absolutely had a necessity to explore before continuing.
Their obsession with the afterlife crosses the threshold of dangerous, while appearing sleek and calculated. They lampoon the evidence provided by authorities, howling from the awful inferno, burning inside of them. They need to be noticed, as the beautiful inventors of the truth. They set the emotional battlefield they are exploiting.
Having their own mirror is crucial. Like a classically trained dancer, they continue to make light corrections, discovering the core of their struggle. Watching the piece is a type of game, and I was never certain whether the Director Samantha Shay should read Strindberg’s “Dance of Death” another time or not, before re-setting her computer, and adding a few more Instagram posts.
When this team returns to a traditional theater space – and I absolutely hope they make that their inevitable goal – will they need video? Or will it be so essential to mostly witness the audience in space, and appreciate them, sitting calmly, while standing by. I don’t know. It’s uncertain.
In These Uncertain Times played on Zoom from July 25-August 2. Tickets were available for advance purchase at www.sourcematerialcollective.com.