Electronic City by Falk Richter

Tom (Brandon Lee Olson) loses track of his existence in New Stage Theatre Company’s production of Falk Richter’s Electronic City. Original photo courtesy of the company.
A little taste of Lower East Side theatre on the Upper West Side

By Andrew Andrews

There’s a gem of a theatre on the UWS that seems more likely at home in the experimental core of the East Village, or even the edgy hinterlands of north Brooklyn.

Like the magical Brigadoon, New Stage Performance Space appears on the radar for a brief moment every spring to bring a little bit of Lower East cool to the Upper West.

Balancing classic avant garde ingredients with the careful precision of a master pâtissière concocting the perfect Baked Alaska, director Ildiko Nemeth works a script and cast into a production that showcases her signature style in every new tale.

This year, Nemeth has Falk Richter’s Electronic City on the menu, as translated by Marlene J. Norst. Narrated by the voice of Siri—or maybe Alexa… or is it the crosstown bus?—E.C. (who has time to spell things out these days?) follows modern everyman Tom as he navigates the homogeneous world of airport lounges, conference rooms, and expat apartments around the globe that are all named “Welcome Home.” Tom is “always arriving, never leaving.”

And then there’s Joy, the long-distance girlfriend that Tom met somewhere, #LivingHerBestLife, a never-ending string of temp jobs, “a million disconnected punchlines but eventually you lose track of what you’re laughing at,” or, as Joy puts it, “a sea of numbers churning under a hurricane sky.”

The lives of Tom and Joy are interesting enough: a pair of fast-paced banalities that “don’t have a plot, only a succession of ever-recurring events.” It’s not the story here that’s entertaining, but the delivery: a highly-choreographed amalgamation of speed skating, robot dance, screen saver animations (by Eric Marciano and Hao Bai), calisthenics, stop motion, a slo-mo fight scene, witty jokes, computer icons and drum ’n’ bass that, wrapped together, reminds us of The Matrix, Enemy of the State, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and, more recently, an episode or two of Love, Death & Robots.

Delivering an operatic chorus of fuck!s” and wearing perfect cookie-cutter black costumes (by actor Brandon Lee Olson) that make last year’s Rechnitz outfits seem colorful by comparison, the ensemble features Beth Dodye Bass, Tatyana Kot, Bjorn Bolinder, Maciej Bartoszewski, Rikin Shah, Chris Tanner, Olson as Tom and Jeanne Lauren Smith—whom we last enjoyed in In The Bleak Midwinter—as Joy.

Electronic City is the perfect play to showcase the cast’s talents and Nemeth’s style, and makes us wonder: has technology made humans so obsolete that our survival instinct has turned us into robots ourselves? And, if there is no room left for individuality, can we at least find authenticity and connection in the empty void of it all?

And what about the “L” word?

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Andrew Andrews attended Electronic City by Falk Richter at New Stage Performance Space in New York on Thursday, April 25, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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