There’s always an unquantifiable extra element of live performance that gives a play life and makes each show a unique moment in time. Playwright Kirk Lynn and director Melanie Joseph magnify this effect ten-fold in the Foundry Theatre’s How Much Is Enough?, at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
The show’s subtitle “our values in question” sums up the structure of the show, which is essentially a long series of questions strung together. They first are projected on top of the many small plastic tables at which the audience sits and later spoken by the performers. Questions like “is philanthropy too easy?” and “what was the last lie you told?” are repeated on the scroll as people file into the space.
There’s no stage — just two small bar tables and two large screens, which are used to project the work of the live Googler (Mohammad Yousuf) who searches for relevant information that arises from the two hour Socratic-type dialogue that follows.
Performers Noel Joseph Allain (Carlo), Mia Katigbak (Marissa), and Carl Hancock Rux (Freddie) enter the space like they’re walking into their own homes and never feel like they’re sticking to a script. But they are — albeit one full of ellipses that gives them space to riff yet doesn’t delineate which character has which lines.
At the performance I saw, Rux took the opening monologue, drawing us in with his softly booming voice. “The moment you die there’s a sound like a candle,” he intones, bringing us into a magical world of language that confounds as it illuminates.
It would be wrong to say more because the show thrives from the thrill of first discovery and not knowing what comes next, but a warning for the shy: the show contains a lot of audience participation. It ranges from a performer walking up to random people and asking short questions to much more involved segments where they invite select audience members to join them at one of the tables to answer deeply personal questions about their lives.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the warmth of the performers that no one refused to join them. They harvest an atmosphere, which seems to melt away the constraints of everyday life and give birth to a world of “what if’s” where no question is off the table. In this environment, our problems become clearer, and we have the chance to participate in the writing of our own story.