Are we mindless technology zombies? Have we lost our human compassion? These are questions addressed in the Fringe show Cellophane, by Mac Wellman. Cellophane, put on by the duo jenny&john at the Boy Scouts’ Room at JUNK (20th and Christian), is a mind-scrambling piece about the role that technology plays in our lives and what affect it has on our human interactions and emotions. Directed by Jenny Kessler, the play is written with extremely unconventional words that are also written out of order. The unique writing, however, was not an issue in understanding the central theme of technology vs. compassion.
The show was a great ensemble piece that consisted of seven talented actors: Aaron Roberge, Jefferson Grubbs, Aja Singletary, Julie Roberts, Katie Frazier, Warren Johns, and Cassie Alexander. They worked well together and supported each other tremendously onstage. Their commitment to each word (no matter how bizarre or out of place it was) made me forget that I was listening to a mixed up script. They let their emotions show through the lines, telling the story with their facial expressions and body language. However, at times the actors would give every word in the sentence equal emphasis. This made it hard for me to fully grasp what message they were trying to convey. Fortunately, those moments came few and far between but when they did, it slowed the show down.
All aspects of the design were strong and did a great job of setting the tone of the play. The effective set, by Katherine Barton, was a perfect mirror to the jumbled lines and crazy trains of thought and the use of old televisions, radios, and keyboards fit perfectly with the world. I was most impressed by the lighting design by Alex Denevers. The colors that were used helped me understand the emotions that the actors were trying to convey. John Bezark turned a giant piece of hanging plastic into an awesome plane for the actors to play with.
Overall, Cellophane created a holistic and unique world that left me contemplating my relationship with the many screens in my life. I am excited to see what jenny&john do next.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Cellophane played from September 9-12, 2016 at The 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival performing at The Boy Scouts’ Room at JUNK – 20th and Christian Streets, in Philadelphia, PA. For more information about jenny&john, go to their website.