Daniel Kitson's latest monologue is a Beckettian experiment with recorded audio.
Sometimes stories are lost forever to the annals of history. These days that's not so much for lack of documentation, but merely lack of interest. This seems to be the overarching point of Daniel Kitson's latest monologue, Analog.ue, which is making its world premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse. Kitson's unique brand of "story shows," like The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church and It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later (both previously presented by St. Ann's), have garnered him a cult following. In Analog.ue, Kitson presents a thoroughly banal story meticulously recorded on pre-digital audio and played on 23 different machines. While this event is impressive to behold in performance — Kitson juggles these antiquated machines with minimal technical difficulty — it is quite dull in terms of content. Perhaps that is the point: Your life is really not that interesting to most people, so why are you spending so much time obsessively documenting it on Facebook and Instagram?
In the beginning there is darkness, with just the faintest outline of a table visible in the center of the stage. Kitson emerges from this darkness bearing a reel-to-reel player and some electrical wire. He hooks up the machine to the power strip on the table and begins to play a story: Thomas is married to Gertie. Gertie is terrified of the prospect of losing all of Thomas' thoughts and secrets to the grave, so she encourages him to spend hours recording those thoughts and feelings on various audio devices.
For 75 minutes it's just us in a dark room listening to Kitson's recorded voice narrate the ballad of Thomas and Gertie in no particular order while he shuffles around the room operating the machines. He never opens his mouth, although he does occasionally wave his hands around as if to comment on the story. We never hear from his characters directly, thus eliminating any sense of drama. Kitson dictates everything in his own distinct, deadpan vernacular. He knows how to turn a phrase about the most ordinary thing into something extraordinarily beautiful yet completely untouchable, like a painting guarded behind a glass case. You can appreciate its magnificence, but you really can't engage with it. In that sense, Analog.ue feels like an uncommonly boring episode of the public radio program This American Life.
Of course, "boring" is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly the fictional Tom and Gertie found their lives interesting enough to record. Kitson found their story interesting enough to craft a show around. Similarly, that coworker who regularly posts photographs of his cats on Facebook finds their cuteness irresistibly worthy of documentation and publication. Do you? Will anyone care how cute his cats are in 75 years? Will Facebook (or the Internet as we know it) still exist in that time? Has digital technology lulled us into a false sense of permanence, when in reality the bits and bytes that make up our modern media are just as fleeting as older forms of documentation (especially when no one cares enough to preserve them)? Analog.ue prompts all of these questions without ever actually asking them.
Such existential musings, when alloyed with audio memoirs, are strikingly reminiscent of Krapp's Last Tape, Samuel Beckett's tale of an elderly man reviewing his audio diary and augmenting it with increasingly depressing entries. Unlike Krapp, Thomas and Gertie seem genuinely happy with their lives, recalling another Beckett play, Waiting for Godot: In the second act Estragon remarks, "We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy?" He could attempt to record that happiness for posterity, I suppose. That's something to do.
It's easy to engage with Analog.ue on an intellectual level, far harder to do so on an emotional or physical one. Something about sitting in the dark while Kitson's soothing Yorkshire accent offers you tidbits of ordinary lives in no particular order is deeply hypnotic, lending itself to sleep more than catharsis. Kitson seems to realize this when he offers (as always, via recording) that portions of this story are lost forever to his technical shortcoming, to lack of source material, and to your heavy eyelids. Be sure to make a pit stop at the Brooklyn Roasting Company next door before you attempt this soporific journey.