I’m an older millennial—what some folks have taken to calling an Xennial. I remember life before the Internet and how exciting it was when we finally signed up for America Online. I remember Zack Morris cell phones and the advent of camera phones. I signed up for “The Facebook” when it was available only to students of certain universities. And the world premiere of Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Click at Simpatico has me thinking.
[The following paragraphs reference sexual assault.]
I’m in the last wave of people who really didn’t have to worry about whether a night of underage drinking would follow us for the rest of our lives. And while sexual assault was certainly happening on campuses in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was in school, an incident like the Steubenville High School rape case—which inspired the events in Click—seemed unimaginable.
A story we know
Early in Click, we meet a 17-year-old college first-year (Lexi Greene) in her first week on campus. She’s a YouTuber, or wants to be, and sees the whole world through a rose-colored Instagram filter. When she winds up at a frat party with her roommate, Maria (David Tibbs), we know what’s going to happen to her because we know what the play is based on—but that doesn’t make it easier to process.
Over a prolonged period, a half-dozen frat brothers assault the girl while she drifts in and out of consciousness. We don’t see this happen—instead, we first learn of the assault through the eyes of two uninvolved frat brothers, Scottie (Aaron Shaw) and Chaz (Joe Falcone), who catch the incident streaming live on their fraternity’s private social channel. Chaz, for some reason, decides to repost it. The consequences for everyone are best witnessed by seeing the play.
But let’s talk about the Greek chorus (played by a talented ensemble of seven). Throughout the play, the chorus appears onstage to provide commentary, set a scene, or serve as background actors. It’s interesting to employ this classical trope in a play with such undeniably modern themes, and it works to mixed effect.
I might have preferred it if the chorus was always onstage, observing the action without intervening; instead, they left the performance space between scenes and on more than one occasion were gone just long enough that I forgot about them and was surprised by their return.
The future is now
The first scenes of Click take place roughly today, with the rest of the play set five and then ten years in the future. Because the script is so focused on technology, the futuristic scenes mean that Goldfinger has to imagine tech the likes of which we’ve never seen. This gives Click something of a sci-fi feel—despite its sadly realistic premise—but I found myself sometimes distracted by the future hypotheticals, puzzling over “how would that possibly work?” instead of focusing on the action onstage.
Goldfinger (who, along with Simpatico artistic director Allison Heishman, is a personal acquaintance) is an inventive, compelling writer. But the technological leaps in the narrative simply seem too much when such important themes are up for discussion.
It’s time we learned
Shaw, Tibbs, Falcone, and Greene are all UArts undergrads. So are all the members of the Greek chorus. They’re roughly the age of the characters they play, which adds a compelling reality to the production.
The UArts students are joined onstage by Rupal Pujara playing Anna, the CEO of a technology company that plays a central role in the last two-thirds of the play. Pujara is a pro and she is fun to watch, but she was overshadowed (not to mention outnumbered) by the “kids” in the cast.
It’s kind of a metaphor for life in 2019: a younger generation of digital natives is dominating the world, overshadowing the folks who came before them, adopting brand-new technology at an alarming rate.
They also have to navigate the implications of events like the Steubenville rape case and the scenario in this play in a way that previous generations didn’t. Maybe it’s time we learn from one another.
What, When, Where
Click, by Jacqueline Goldfinger. Directed by Adrienne Mackey. Through April 14, 2019, at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 341 S Hicks Street, Philadelphia. (267) 437-7529 or simpaticotheatre.org.
The Drake is an ADA-compliant venue with gender-neutral restrooms.