I went on a strange journey in the upstairs theater of the Logan Fringe Arts Space, where As It Were and/or What(ever) Doesn’t Matter, written and directed by Stephen Notes, was being presented. As I walked in and took my seat, a young woman was stretching and practicing assorted yoga poses on a mat, while an older gentleman in business attire paced the stage. Both were silent and seemingly aware of the other but neither spoke. This went on until it was time for the show to begin. The lights went down and the two sat down in chairs, which were the only set pieces on the stage.
The show is set in a futuristic office setting and the actors mime all of their actions, from typing to pouring tea. Chuthachinee Juntranggur plays Chelsea, a yoga-obsessed human who carries most of the dialogue for the show and goes into extremely long and confusing rants of memory and philosophy, and Nick Torres is Don, her humanoid robot coworker who spends most of his time typing away on his keyboard that, for unexplained reasons, is never in the same place twice.
Juntranggur was at times difficult to understand but I am not sure that I would have been able to follow her stream of consciousness, talking aloud that took up half of the play either way. Whether this is a failing on my part to understand, I’m not sure, but I was never able to grasp what point or message the piece was trying to convey. I wanted to understand. The plot had potential and is described as “The terrifying story of a human female trying to find love, occupation and yoga in a sinister company surrounded by holographic projections, threatening memories and/or simulated humanoid robots bent on lust, conspiracy, suicide, alcoholism, domination and mind bending erotic arguments.”
But as interesting as the description may be, the piece fell flat with me. There were several moments when the play earned its categorization as a comedy, but overall I felt as if I was being talked at in a steady stream of nonsensical thoughts that were attempting to sound profound.
Don fires Chelsea at one point and she shoots him, to no effect because he is a robot, but that brings in the security guard, Shaun Johnson, onto the scene, having heard the gun shots. The addition of this third character, which we learn is also a robot, seemed liked progress and I thought for a moment that maybe I would start to be able to make sense of what was happening but Chelsea, again, goes into a soliloquy and I was lost.
Stephen Notes, plays Mike, who works on another floor of the same building. He bursts into the scene toward the end of the play. While the other actors had seemed as unconvinced of the necessity or clarity of their words as I was, Notes was full of energy and purpose. He wants to hire Chelsea, or actually have sex with her, and Chelsea is all for it. While this comes as a relief to me to be able to finally see a clear goal, the action still doesn’t tie any of the previous material together.
As It Were and/or What(ever) Doesn’t Matter left me confused and unsatisfied. I will not deny though that I was entertained with all of its strangeness, and maybe someone else can make better sense of the text than I.
Running Time: 60 minutes.
As It Were and/or What(ever) Doesn’t Matter plays through July 24, 2016 at Logan Fringe Arts Space-1358 Florida Avenue, NE, in Washington, DC. for tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.
Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.