“But I’m not special. I am a person, and when you’re a person, all kinds of really terrible things can happen to you. It’s why my father died the way he did, and if I die the same way, it’s going to be for the same reason. Because I’m a person. Just like my father. Just like my Uncle John. Just like everybody.”
It is close to the end of the virtual production, and for the first time, we see the narrator sit in front of the camera completely neutral. No mask, no excessive costume, and no special lighting. The narrator takes this moment to stare right into the eyes of the remote viewers to share this intimate, honest piece of self-reflection.
The unexpected moment of intimacy might fill you with a mix of emotions – this writer certainly felt surprise, but also a deep connection to the narrator. On its own, the reflection carries relevance. As the play demonstrates, we all experience pain, and life is about navigating our way through that journey. However, in light of the pandemic, you might also find that the moment carries a new level of urgency. Not only do we all feel pain, but we all experience it together. No matter how alone we might feel, there is almost certainly someone else feeling something similar. As heartbreaking as that might be, there is also some hope, and the knowledge that we will make it through.
Theatre Y presents We’re Gonna Die
Directed by Héctor Álvarez, Theatre Y presents a reimagined virtual production of Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die – an offering conceived for the current state of isolation. Lee’s piece is a combo play and indie rock concert, featuring a female singer who alternates between stories showcasing increasing levels of pain and sweeter, jauntier music. Songs include Lullaby for the Miserable and Horrible Things.
Álvarez’s virtual production assumes an unexpected format – highlighting the work of a 12-artist team. Rather than simply featuring the narrator as she shared her stories, the team presents a series of images and videos that connect to the material – both literally and abstractly. Álvarez’s vision invites audiences to think deeply as they watch, and consider the connections between the moving images and the words they are hearing. While some images are a bit disturbing, others are beautiful, and some find themselves in between. For example, as the narrator takes the audience through a story about her father’s death, we are confronted with an image of bright pink flowers being flushed down a toilet. You might find yourself appreciating the beauty in the symbolism, and the stunning use of color in the face of so much death and heartbreak.
In addition to images (both moving and still), Álvarez utilizes video footage in strategic places to enhance the impact. One such moment features two children playing in a sprinkler in a backyard. As we watch the children playing, we hear the narrator describe her friend, Beth, and her heartbreak as she discovered her husband’s hidden affair. We hear details about how this family is torn apart by the husband’s choices, and how all of the secrets came to light while the family was on a road trip. As the story plays out, the children continue to play in the yard – completely unaware of the outside world.
Álvarez presents the audience with an appropriately uncomfortable distinction between the innocence before us and the heartbreaking pain we hear in the words. The production may be virtual, but this writer could still feel the physical discomfort in the combination. You might find that Álvarez’s use of specific videos and images helps carry the tension that one might feel while sitting in the theater, which adds to the overall impact of the piece.
Creative design and a striking relevant script make Theatre Y’s production of We’re Gonna Die a distinctly original virtual offering.
Offered virtually through October 25, 2020
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:00pm
Online via video link.
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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