In this world, this small big world, things happen constantly we know nothing about. Or we know about it but we don’t really. Or maybe everyone is on the joke, but you. Those questions amplify every time something big happens. Every time a tragedy strikes, the seeping confusion births a bit of paranoia. Every time we conceptualized saving humanity as something we could do without getting our hands dirty at the end. We romanticise what we do to aggrandize what we are. But what if all of this suddenly became real. That what you are doing is more than just playing what if’s and could have earth shattering consequences. What does your conscience do? Your morals? But more importantly, what if you are just thinking too much? After all, intelligent people tend to do that. What if… what if… what if… Could you live with the what if? This is the main question that moves the astutely written play by Aaron Loeb “Ideation,” running through April 17 at 59E59. I tell you that now so you have it in the back of your mind as you read the review. Why? Because this whole time I want you to know that what Josh Costello did with the play is must-see theater. I know, this raises another why, but that’s an easy read below:
First: The script. The words flow so swiftly creating a strong and interesting pace. This pace is the reason we get sucked-in to the plot little by little until it creates a whirlpool of turns that makes us lose any interest on anything else but what’s on stage. If that sounds crazy it’s because it is. Loeb presents characters that seem hatable, but are charming, yet humanizes them by stripping power and bringing them down to the common. What we think it’s going to be, a corporate drama, becomes one of the best explorations about humanity and its decisions I’ve ever experienced.
Second: the cast. The way these actors portray each person is something to behold. Seeing them progress, go from sane to insane, question their own reality and finally bring their own collective individual conclusion to the floor, no actor was a weak link. I say collective and individual together, because decisions are made on the floor collectively while you could see in each of their eyes the decisions being made individually. And then it dawns on you, isn’t this how we live our every day? Looking at each other and agreeing on things out loud, while making plans inside that nobody knows. Isn’t that the base that creates paranoia? The withholding and reward system that we have our secrecy policy set on. Some may know, some will not, and others will never even realize what is going on right under their noses. Ben Euphrat, Jason Kapoor, Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips, and Michael Ray Wisely all need singular standing ovations for taking such a complex story and making it relatable to everyone. I don’t see one person in the audience not following what is happening, and that’s definitely a huge plus on a play that works on human psyche like this one. Bravo!
Third: the director and his crew. Costello had an array of amazing tools on his disposal for this production. From the magnificence of the office set, designed by Bill English, which instantly gave us the impression needed, to the subtle work from the sound designer Theodore J.H Hulsker. The world feels real because they made it so. We are sucked into this world of paranoia because their work allowed us to escape ours. But none of that wouldt have worked without Costello putting it all together like a great orchestra master. An orchestra master playing that beautiful composition that Aaron Loeb put in front of him. Their vision is a service to us.
This play was a success in San Francisco and should be now in New York, that is good news. That means people are watching it, which also means people are interested in this kind of play. This smart play which entertains and educates, makes you question yourself and then analyze those around you. At the end, it will force you to meditate on your everyday decisions while trying to figure out how you would react. That’s the power of theater. That’s what lies beyond the glamour, and Loeb is giving it to us. He is gifting this, and for us not to take advantage of such talent would speak ill of us as an audience.
*All images via Carol Rosegg
Out of 4 stars:
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