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Theatre Review (NYC): The Realm

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Could you imagine being in a deep dark place under the Earth’s surface with very little food and water?

Could you imagine being in such a place that everyone appears to be like a “Stepford wife” and yet you are the only one who isn’t?

Could you imagine a place where your words slowly dissipate until one day, there are no words?

That’s what happens in The Realm, a new show that opened Saturday, April 3, 2010 at the Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, between Avenues A & B in New York City. The show has a limited engagement in New York and will run through Sunday, April 18. It is presented by Down Payment Productions.

The Realm opens with Mr. Father (played by Timur Kocak), Mrs. Mother (played by Amy Temple), and James (played by Aaron Simon Gross) sitting at their dining room table. The food is already rationed on their plates. With the signal from Mr. Father, the three cut their food in unison. With the next signal, they eat their meal. It’s totally surrealistic. The audience is a little confused about these occurrences. 

As the play progresses, we meet Kansas (played by Emily Olson) who is a rebellious teenager who only wants to go on the outside. She and James are friends and they slowly try to find their way. James is looking for his real mother, played by Amy Bodnar; Kansas is just looking for a way out of this civilization where everything is controlled by the government. Throughout the play, Kansas keeps appearing with Ms. Analyst (played by Jessica Pohly) who tries to get her to either control people or be controlled. “Everyone has a choice…” she says.

The Realm, which was written by Sarah Myers and directed by Jessica Fisch, is an hour-and-a-half production that really gets you thinking about language and its importance in society. The play is set underground and is a metaphor for what’s been going on in the U.S. since September 11.

I remember reading Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 which talked about the government’s use of thought control to keep its citizens in line. If you think about it, aren’t we living in a place where our privacy is stripped away through our use of credit cards, cell phones, and social media sites? Through this postmodern technology, we all become “Big Brother” watching each others' lives unfold.

In The Realm, people surrender their language in exchange for security and to fit into society.

The show is different, exciting, suspenseful, and a little weird. After each scene, which has interaction between at least two of the characters, Amy Bodnar’s character comes out and poetically speaks about how “they” were taking away her privileges and her words. But she isn’t going to let them. The audience never does find out what happens. The ending just leaves us speculating and thinking, which doesn’t always happen at these types of productions.  
The sets, which consist of industrial pipes on moving carts, are simple and yet effective.

I was particularly impressed with Emily Olson’s performance. She really makes you believe that she is a rebellious teenager. I loved her facial expressions. She was right on point. Actually, the entire cast does a convincing job.

The plot was written to illustrate Sarah Myers' point of view about society. Sometimes, her point of view gets in the way of her storytelling.  

But all in all, the production has a great flow, and when I attended, the show went by so quickly that when it ended, no one moved… 

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