At least since the 2011 production of Wirehead, with its augmented humans, San Francisco Playhouse has a finely honed sensitivity to the effects of technology. In these worlds, tech influences seem unavoidable, rooted in competitively negotiating the quotidian morass of work and strategic socializing. Trouble Cometh deepens this discussion by looking at how we’ve suspended notions of truth and reality as our increasingly fragmented worlds are held together with binary spit, bailing wire, and ever-shifting narcissism.
This sense of the unreal hits as soon as you enter the house and cold blue light bounces off stark white desk and retro office chairs on stage. Don’t get too comfortable here because your ears are soon to be assaulted with a pulsating cacophonous African beat as the lights black out, and rotating set pieces become an after work bar where Joe (Kyle Cameron) and Kelly (Liz Sklar) are chatting.
Joe’s a bit of a nebbish, earnest, likable, not entirely on point. Kelly’s the sophisticate, manipulating circumstances, creating false intimacies, strategizing career moves, and advising Joe to ask his new boss to best man at his upcoming nuptials. Falling for Kelly (at least in this moment), Joe kisses her as lights black out and set pieces rotate back to the office.
Once in the office, we meet Joe’s colleague, Dennis, (Patrick Russell). Russell delivers a performance that’ll give you shivers of recognition. You know this long-winded, self-serving, alpha male wanna-be who sucks the air out of the room. Everything’s about manipulating the ephemeral for the small win instead of the substantive gain.
This cultural foray into unreality deepens when Dennis and Joe are given 72 hours to develop a concept for a reality show.
Playwright Richard Dresser has done a really nice job with this one, nailing perfectly the shifting unrealities of a life uneasily balanced between ambiguities. Thanks to May Adrales’ stage direction and Nina Ball’s killer set, this thing cooks. Dresser takes on serious work and still leaves you exiting the theatre smiling, which is why this world premiere is sure to attract both critical and popular attention.