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Under the Radar Festival 2012 Roundup #3

World of Wires

Jay Scheib's multimedia performance piece, adapted from Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film of the same name, is a chaotic mess.

By New York City
A scene from World of Wires
(© Paula Court)
A scene from World of Wires
(© Paula Court)
There's a thrilling moment in the beginning of Jay Scheib's World of Wires, currently playing at the Kitchen, when the fourth wall literally comes crashing down. Unfortunately, what follows is a chaotic mess.

The show, which has been adapted by Scheib from Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film of the same name and Dainel Galouye's novel Simulacron-3, imagines a world where people can step into a simulation so real that it eclipses their sense of reality and impacts them as events in real life would.

Cleverly, the work opens with the action being live projected on a large screen that obstructs all but the very corners of the stage -- forcing the audience to watch the action unfold on the screen like a disjointed home movie. The actors are physically only mere inches away from their celluloid doppelgangers, but it's a whole 'nother world.

Indeed, when one character removes a brick from the wall the image is being projected on, we get to see her reaction both in person, as she gets her first glimpse of us, and close-up on screen. Then a second block is pushed through and a third until the whole wall falls down revealing the actors in the flesh. The duality is quite striking.

The problem with the play, however, is that the characters never seem more than mouthpieces for Scheib's ideas, and the acting is decidedly flat -- probably intentionally. Moreover, the action shifts from place to place and from simulation to reality and back with weak transitions that cause confusion and ultimately disengagement. If the characters (and actors) were allowed to breathe a little more, one senses how different (and better) the show could be.

Untitled Mars -- which was the first of part of Scheib's Simulated Cities/Simulated Systems trilogy -- balanced a clinical feel with a sense of wonderment for the unexplored that the characters were so earnestly searching for. In that play, we were allowed to share in the journey. Here, we're just lost.


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