“This is not a Zoom play.”
From the ides of March to late July, the theater world has endured enough and evolved enough to have both developed and then tired of a whole new format: the Zoom gallery view, actors Brady-Bunched and performing all together while they’re still all alone. But Baltimore’s Single Carrot Theatre has just “opened” a brand new one-act by DJ Hills called “We Broke Up,” written specifically for online streaming, and presented by the company via YouTube.
Their work is first-rate, in making and framing a story that is purely of its medium.
The YouTube platform is more than just a a content delivery system here. It also serves as proscenium and even as part of the story, as the characters Laikin (Meghan Stanton) and Bowie (Paul Diem) begin another episode of their hit web series “Cooking with BAIKIN.” If there’s such a thing as an internet fourth wall, “We Broke Up” breaks it at the outset. Video director Chris (Mohammad R. Suaidi) has to tweak a few things to get the webcast underway, and while that’s going on, we busy ourselves with a chat session which continues, for a time, even through the first few scenes of the play.
Early on, we learn the heartbreaking news that Bowie and Laikin have, indeed, broken up. Don’t be fooled by scenery — although the setting makes this, literally, a kitchen table drama there’s a lot more going on beyond the browser. YouTube followers in the chat window launch a barrage of questions: is Bowie available now? This plants-in-the-audience technique performs the really difficult task of fully engaging viewers almost as if we’re sitting in the same room together watching a show again. Remember what that was like? The Carrots chose long before COVID to go all in on immersive, site-specific theater and deserve our hearty applause for creating a way to apply this philosophy within the tight boundaries of today’s limitations by taking advantage of them, rather than fighting them. Maryland playwright, DJ Hills, and director, Ben Kleymeyer, get a ton of credit too. Their work is first-rate, in making and framing a story that is purely of its medium.
Running time: 49 minutes.
Single Carrot Theatre’s production of “We Broke Up” by DJ Hills only runs through July 31, so be sure to see it before it’s gone. Details can be found here.