In a post-internet world, technology has completely usurped the way we communicate: most people who’ll know what I think of the following play will find out through this blog, Facebook/Twitter, and the occasional text. Only a handful of others will know what I’ve said about the production in person. And if I were to really examine my communication with that handful of people I actually speak to on a regular basis, how much of it has been superseded by laptops and smartphones?
That’s the hook of The Cloud, a short-but-oh-so-sweet comedy from Slant Theatre Project that examines how relationships flourish–and flounder–in this brave new digital world. The couple put to the test: Chris (Teddy Bergman) and Katie (Makela Feely-Lehmann), two New Yorkers who text each other as much as they speak face-to-face. Chris is a set designer who has just gotten a gig teaching at an out-of-town college. Katie is a shrewd app developer whose latest project is a pay-to-play social network where users post their nudes–just so they can see everyone else’s. They converse throughout the opening scene in bursts of both “real dialogue” and text messages, a challenge that director Wes Grantom handles with ease, as the actors still look at each other, and not just their phones. This choice in direction lends a credibility and inner life to their text exchanges. The foils to Chris and Katie are Greg, Katie’s philandering ex-boyfriend and personal trainer to Sandy, a costume designer who teaches at the same school as Chris. Of course, all four characters (and their various mobile devices) collide, with humorous results.
The Cloud could have easily been a dull rom-com with more techie style than substance. Happily, this was not the case, as Matt Moses’ clever dialogue has real heart behind the punchlines. All four characters have authentic histories, desires, and flaws, no matter the medium they express them. My favorite had to be Greg, who is notorious for his dude-bro womanizing ways, but is an aging Lothario searching for something more significant. The allusion to Shakespeare in The Cloud also lends to its complexity. As Chris and Sandy prepare for a regional production of As You Like It, there is a discussion of whether this production should have realistic, green trees or a darker forest that represents the characters’ difficulties. Instead of a forest, The Cloud has 4G networks and messaging apps that its characters must navigate through. But neither the Forest of Arden nor a messaging app can totally decide our fate. It’s still up to us to figure out how to make that connection.
For more information on The Cloud, check out Slant Theatre Project’s website: http://www.slanttheatreproject.org