You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better…
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?…
Leave tonight or live and die this way
(“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman)
Why those lyrics to top my review of Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran? That’s easy. Javaad Alipoor‘s Rich Kids takes off with a car crash of a fast car occupied by two privileged young adults trying to fly away from their stilted lives.
Rich Kids, set in post-revolutionary Iran, is based upon real-life events gleaned from public records and Instagram accounts of two deceased individuals after their fiery deaths in the high speed crash of a yellow Porsche. But Rich Kids is so much more than a mere tale of two privileged kids. As crafted by Alipoor and co-creator Kirsty Housley, Rich Kids is a nifty, unsubtle virtual drama that begins as a sharp-eyed, mournful tale about two impulsive people. As narrated by Alipoor and co-performer Peyvand Sadeghian, Rich Kids becomes a heart-piercing, insightful essay about broader issues such as climate change and humanity’s ongoing misuse of the world’s finite resources.
Sprinkled throughout Rich Kids are gems of data points ticked off by Alipoor and Housley. Here are but two: The arrival of Europeans to the “new” world 500 years ago led to 50 million deaths. Or this jewel: Humans born since 1948 have slightly radioactive teeth. Added to that, Alipoor and Sadeghian’s explanation of the joys of Vaporwave was a delight.
The Rich Kids production features Alipoor and Sadeghian as insightful, urgent, sometimes chilling narrators who lead viewers by the hand through the 65-minute virtual production. They generally share the screen in Zoom-like boxes. But it is no staid production. With the use of fast-changing pictures, videos, and Instagram, Rich Kids whizzes by. The many highly-charged scenes are connected by explosions of colors, combustible instrumental music, and sound like a slowly erupting volcano spewing out lava.
This show uses Instagram to tell part of the story and for some interactivity during the performance. Woolly makes clear that although it’s not necessary to be on Instagram while you watch the show, it does allow the artists to share more of the world with you and is encouraged. Instructions for accessing Instagram are online and included in confirmation and pre-show emails. I did use Instagram and my laptop to view Rich Kids. The technology creative team behind Rich Kids deserves high praise, including Thom Buttery and Tom Newell for Limbic Cinema (Video Designers), Simon McCorry (Sound Designer), Jess Bernberg (Lighting Designer), Kayleigh Hawkins (Assistant Director), Dom Baker for The Production Family (Production Manager), and Javairya Khan (Projects Assistant).
And why the title Rich Kids: Shopping Malls in Tehran? Well, the reason becomes clear as the production moves along.
So hearty applause to Woolly Mammoth Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes for bringing the very singular show to area audiences. The virtual version of Rich Kids had its U.S. premiere as part of the 2021 Public Theater Under the Radar Festival in January 2021. It was first seen in a pre-pandemic, live production at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival.
Rich Kids is an inspired, tightly packed production that hypnotized me. It provided plenty of harsh judgment toward entitled offspring while powerfully connecting what can happen if we do not pay heed to our own on-going overconsumption.
Running time: 65 minutes with no intermission
Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran streams live on Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s on Demand site Thursday to Sunday through April 18, 2021. Purchase tickets online. Viewers are encouraged to utilize Instagram for interactivity, and audiences are welcome to join a series of curated post-show talkbacks following Friday and Sunday performances. Links for these conversations will be shared in the chat at the conclusion of the performance.
Note: Rich Kids has descriptions of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and death.