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Please Continue: Theater review by David Cote
Stanley Milgram’s research in obedience to authority, conducted at Yale in the early ’60s, remains a constant fascination for ethicists and artists. The latest piece to riff on it is Frank Basloe’s earnest but plodding Please Continue, which saddles a sketchy critique of Milgram’s methods with an unsubtle B plot about conformity.
If you don’t know the story: New Haven residents and students were told to administer electric shocks to a man in an adjacent room every time he answered a question incorrectly. The voltage went high, and the shockee started yelling to be let out. And yet, because a lab-coated assistant ordered them, volunteers kept on. (The “victim” was only pretending.) Would any of us, given permission by an authority figure, torture a stranger?
This is still culturally potent stuff: the dark side of Mad Men and harbinger of our desensitized digital times. Unfortunately, Basloe’s account is slow-moving, flat-footed and telegraphs its themes a mile away. You might welcome a jolt or two to stay engaged.—David Cote
Ensemble Studio Theatre (Off Broadway). By Frank Basloe. Directed by William Carden. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote