Uncle Josh goes to the Theater
Tonight was part one of Box by Tina Connolly and Matt Haynes, produced by The Pulp Stage, a readers theater here in Portland that’s worth their salt. It is the first part of a live science fiction trilogy. Parts two and three will be presented in the next two weeks. Here is the official blurb:
Jane, a high school student, has been arrested under suspicion of a heinous crime.
In a government detention center, Jane is wired to a virtual reality program that sends her through a series of flashbacks and fantasy games, all with the intent of exposing her crime and reprocessing her mind.
The clock is ticking… can Jane find her way “out” before the program takes total control of her?
Box is set in a dystopian future where almost everything anyone does that could be considered close to fun or even basically human, is a violation of some moral code, which have been enumerated and paired with appropriate punishments based on age and severity of offense. This does not sound like a great world to live in.
The story centers around Jane (Kaia Maarja Hillier) , a high school student who is being punished and “reprogrammed.” The punishment I am sure about, the reprogramming, well, almost everything in the story is a simulated mental game, so it’s hard to discern if anything imposed on Jane is real, even the bits that are “reality”. That’s the great thing about science fiction: it can explore deep philosophical ideas and entertain at the same time. Jane is a smart kid who could break the system and is up to something. Hillier plays this perfectly, with the assuredness of a cocky teenager with all the insecurities of a teenager when the shit hits the fan.
The A.I. (Rachel Joy Erickson) represents the whole screwed up world and it’s perfection in non-humanism. Erickson plays an A.I. It is a perfect voice for an A.I. with a modicum of intelligence and grit. It is most likely lying about everything
The remaining four members of the cast play multiple roles, including Jane’s BFF Portia, potential love interest Ethan, cops, drunken mothers, “crazy” old ladies with printers (the kind of crime Cory Doctorow writes about), and vice principals.
Jane is pushed around quite a bit, and the ramp up is quite tense through the first act. It really messes with the mind. There’s a reason I put scare quotes around reality a few paragraphs back. Everything is real and potentially unreal at the same time. The only thing we can count on is Jane’s authentic reactions to everything.
I expect this to change next week.
I advice you to order tickets now. I’ve got mine, so I’m not afraid to encourage the rest of you.
(Updated to fix a formatting error.)