“FaceSpace” by Talia Gonzalez & Bisanne Masoud.
Directed by Daniel Winerman. Produced by Lucky Penny Productions in association with The 7th Sign Theater Productions for the Midtown International Theatre Festival at MainStage Theatre, 312 W. 36 St., NYC.
July 18 - Aug. 1, 2009 for six performances. Schedule varies.
Tickets and information: 866-811-4111, www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/660915 or www.facespacetheyplay.com. $18-15.
by Glenda Frank
Might as well confess it -- we’re all obsessed with our new toys: the Internet, iPhones, BlackBerries, you name it. Verizon has mounted a multi-million dollar ad campaign showing people like us losing it because we’ve hit a dead zone by using another company. Slowly online dating, Ebay, texting, chat rooms and other techno activities are entering our plays and movies, but rarely are they text and sermon as they are in “FaceSpace” by Talia Gonzalez & Bisanne Masoud, one of 63 shows in the tenth Midtown International Theatre Festival. The play is remarkable: a LOL and compelling drama, with people and situations we instantly recognize and a plot with enough twists to keep us involved throughout. Precision direction (by Daniel Winerman) and sharp performances are another plus.
Gonzalez and Masoud may be first-time playwrights but they know that everyone loves a good love story – where boy doesn’t get girl for the best of reasons. Anne (Lindsay Ryan) and Simon (Mike Carlsen) are about as mismatched as couples go – only he doesn’t know it. She’s trying to climb out of her small-town mindset and, having Googled him, she’s invented a pack of lies to rank herself in his league. His ex-girlfriend (Ilana Becker) adds an interesting complication -- and a sizzling performance.
When he discovers the truth (and learns a more recent secret about Anne), Simon finds himself way out of his comfort zone, and begins – in a series of believable revelations -- to recognize what he wants in his life. But he can’t have it. Sound like a soap opera? It’s not. It’s what a whole lot of twenty and thirtysomethings are going through as they explore their options.
This love story has a third protagonist: he’s narrator, cupid, villain, Type A entrepreneur, and human pop-up all in one, named Tom Anderson (Jon Levenson in a magnificent performance). He is the avatar of Face Space, representing its amazing possibilities and serious limitations. His website is projected on the curtain in the opening scene, complete with familiar sections for pictures of his friends (including a dog), his favorite books and favorite movies. Hello, new Face Space users, Tom says to us, grinning ear to ear. I’m the C.E.O. and ruler of this space, the jewel in the crown, your personal Jiminy Cricket. Share my vision and connect. If others aren’t examining your life, it’s as though you don’t exist.
The FaceSpace agreement pops up on the screen. It begins in English sentences, moves into a kind of Latinate prose, then into gibberish, and finishes in English phrases before it reaches the “I Agree” button. We are in the world of parody and satire – and lots of clever phrasing.
Tom is far more than a device. As an active physical presence, Tom is comic relief, exposition, a commercial, a ubiquitous friend to everyone – and a delight. He highlights the wonders of FaceSpace and texting. (In one scene when text messages are projected, someone obviously new to the craft writes, “Can I buy a vowel?”) Through him we learn that Mary Ellen is in from Brazil, that someone whose picture we see projected has travelled a long distance for a blind date, what Simon did in Washington Heights, and all the other twitter that flies through the airways. Technology is seamlessly integrated into the scenes. It is never intrusive and never peripheral. FaceSpace is how Anne and Simon met. Although they lived several states apart, they bumped into each other in New York and instantly recognized each other. It closes time and space gaps, allows us to move on quickly, and may, Simon says, have contributed to our current financial crises by keeping us inattentive. Even Simon’s dad (Thomas F. Walsh) has his say as he chats with his son via the Internet.