Review: World of Wires
Multimedia director Jay Scheib blurs reality and computer simulations.
Wed Jan 11 2012
Photograph: Paula Court
World of Wires at The Kitchen
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Lurking inside every experimental-theater auteur is a film director itching to light, shoot and edit a movie's every pixel (just ask Richard Foreman, who chucked playwriting for Final Cut and an editing suite). Even though film can be just as collaborative (and compromised) as the stage, cinema dangles the promise of total control. So Jay Scheib is trying to have his cake and eat it, too: In his latest, heavily mediated assemblage, World of Wires, he trails behind his performers with a video camera, feeding strikingly composed, deep-focus images to monitors and screens. Normally, I go to the theater to evaluate language, acting styles and set design; I don't find myself admiring canted close-ups or photojournalistic jitter.
Not that ordinary theatrical values aren't also part of the experience. Scheib bases his loopy, spaced-out script on Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1973 television miniseries, Welt am Draht, itself drawn from Daniel F. Galouye's 1962 sci-fi novel, Simulacron-3 (both precursors to such simulation-or-reality works as The Matrix). Plot is never wholly absent from Scheib's plays, but he does his best to blur it under bursts of slapstick, erotic fumbling and cryptic, banal dialogue. His versatile (drop-dead gorgeous) actors balance comic romping with a sharp awareness of the tech jungle they inhabit.
World of Wires is a futuristic corporate murder mystery in which computer scientist Fred Stiller (Jon Morris) helps invent a world-simulating program for his company, Rien, Inc., and then must enter the simulation himself to find out who killed his colleague, Fuller (Sarita Choudhury, who doubles as a hysterical secretary). Tanya Selvaratnam is deadpan-daffy as a CEO with perpetually frizzy hair and a glazed expression. And impish Mikah Ernest Jennings plays Stiller's saucy psychiatrist friend, Franz. Most of the actors take on secondary roles in this twisty story, and if you're confused about who's playing who, then Scheib has driven home his point that reality and identity are contingent and fluid. Visually dazzling and conceptually rich, World of Wires marks the final part of Scheib's mind-bending trilogy, Simulated Cities/Simulated Systems. Now that it's done, let's hope the pioneering Scheib still finds worthwhile subjects in three dimensions.