You Are Dead. You Are Here: plot synopsis
Writer Christine Evans, director Joseph Megel and media designer Jared Mezzocchi band together (as Transit Lounge) to imagine a meeting between an American soldier and a girl blogger in Iraq.
You Are Dead. You Are Here: theater review
Before I start saying cruel things, I should make it clear: Many of those working on the projection-heavy Iraq War tale You Are Dead. You Are Here. are doing fine work. Cocreator and media designer Jared Mezzocchi works confidently; the actors are capable. Execution isn’t the issue. Instead, You Are Dead fails on a conceptual level, or rather, never makes it past the conceptual level.
Writer Christine Evans, director Joseph Megel and Mezzocchi have been inspired by a digital tool: the video therapy aid Virtual Iraq, which allows a veteran to revisit the battlefield (or Humvee or Baghdad marketplace) in virtual reality. We watch sessions between Hanna (O’Neill) and jittery vet Michael (Gaskins), intercut with video blogs by a Falluja teen (Khavari), whose ghostly presence occasionally infiltrates the Virtual Iraq software. It’s digital-age stuff, and yet the work devised around it is simplistic and old-fashioned. Evans uses that hoary psychodrama structure: the delayed revelation of a hidden trauma. Will Michael eventually break through to a repressed memory? We know he will.
I applaud the collaborative team’s political message, but the result proves once again that technology fights dramatization tooth and nail. If you can’t solve that fundamental issue you wind up with this: Poor O’Neill talking to herself (“Delete!” she says, as no one ever does, to messages in her inbox) and a play full of video explosions lying stubbornly inert.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
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