In Security

You can’t walk out of a play with a simple “I didn’t like it, it just wasn’t for me.” I mean, you can, but if you do then you’ve wasted an awful lot of time. More often than not, the play isn’t for you, it’s for the people who made it, and it’s up to you to do a little work to figure out what it all means.

I suppose it could be argued that a great piece of art will translate, but I’m pretty sure that it translates *eventually*, that very often some of the most groundbreaking stuff we’ve witnessed had to be seen through the lens of history, it had to be understood by what came after it. You know that the first Jackson Pollock was greeted with at least a handful of people saying “that’s what my two year old’s room would look like if I didn’t clean it.”

I think what you can say is, “It was very good, and it wasn’t for me,” which is how I felt about the play In Security, now playing at the 3LD Art and Technology Center.

As you walk in, you see a woman frantically trying to learn Spanish from a tape as she goes through her personal and professional schedule, time and again, ironing out all the insanity that her friends, coworkers and family keep throwing at her. The utterly surreal tone is set immediately as she goes through her surgical schedule (her medical degree from Harvard “hangs” on the wall behind her as a projection) and repeats the phrase “Would you like to fix the exhaust pipe” in Spanish. The entire space is full of white furniture, outlined in black pen, all of it looking like a child’s sketch.

There is only one actor that appears live in this piece, the woman who’s surgery schedule and impending wedding are about to have a fender-bender. Every other character is portrayed by videotaped actors, and are projected on the walls behind her.

This works really well in a number of ways. The alienation is palpable all the way through, you never get a sense that she belongs anywhere. Also, the inhumanity is startling throughout, we are sharing our time with a woman who is trying to be perfect, to be more machine than person, and the rest of the world comes at her as projections from a machine. This is a wonderful idea, and it folds in neatly with the rest of the script.

The problem I had is a personal preference, really. The show is actually a very linear play, and the projections are, if my memory serves, always characters on the phone with her. These are filmed actors, and they exist in a completely surreal world, but in the end, we aren’t hearing voices in her head, we aren’t getting any manipulations of standard storytelling. There is a clock on the wall that moves either quickly or slowly, but it’s always simply moving forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to have seen the play. The use of projected images isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the artists who are doing it in this show have a steady hand and are very, very smart. The look is seamless, from the images into the actual space. Also, Anna Gutto is wickedly good, spitting out huge chunks of dialogue as fast as the human ear can hear them. I try to stay away from praising people that I have a personal fondness for, but Alexis Poledouris’ direction is really elegant and makes excellent use of the indiscriminate parameters of the piece.

I just walked away wanting something stranger. There were some profound moments, but the intelligence and the bravery inherent in these moments implies that the entire piece could have been a lot more bizarre and I would have enjoyed it that much more.