Theatre Review: The Idiot Box
The Idiot Box portrays the structural demise of a group of Friends-esque roommates living in an alternate realm of televised situational comedy (complete with predictable jokes, stereotypes, accepted sexism, and laugh tracks) that slowly collapses under the weight of the crude reality of the modern human condition. This Open Fist Theatre production has all of the traditional markers of a really good drama: Michael Elyanow's new play is a carefully crafted quagmire of complex, yet well-structured writing that painstakingly deconstructs commercialized apathy; Jeremy Cohen's complementary stage direction subtly juggles all of the unnerving discomfort, painful associations, and concocted awe that the Idiot Box inherently emotes with the tact of a Twilight Zone junkie; and the cast skillfully completes the production, straddling both exaggerated artificiality and awakened intensity as their paradigm shifts from that of a sit-com world to one of war, terrorism, poverty, racism, psychological crises, mediocrity, self-loathing, and fear.
The acting, writing, and direction in this production are undeniably good, but, what makes the Idiot Box a uniquely compelling play, is of all unexpected things, the audience. Never in my play-going life have I witnessed such a perfectly curated theatrical paradox. The audience was a juxtaposition of the ironies that were poised as the founding crux of the play. Collectively watching the play, the audience was literally a living, breathing, non-fictional expression of the apathetic escapism that allows socio-political atrocities to occur despite the liberating potential of our expansive media.