Are you comfortable with surprises? With not having a clear idea of what is happening next? With vagaries and/or vicissitudes? Of a moment of unexpected snort-laughter and then a sudden searing of realization?
This is a smart, witty, rather wistful and energizing experience. I have four days to enjoy it, and I plan to.
If so, then this remarkable experience is for you. Woolly Mammoth and Telephonic Literary Union have joined forces to bring this “intimate anthology for remote times” to life, via telephone. It’s unexpectedly funny and poignant and rather hypnotic.
The experience will be different for each participant. And if it ever feels overwhelming or you need a break, you can simply hang up and then call back anytime within the four-day window you’ve signed up for.
You receive an access code. At any point during that four-day period, you can dial the 1-800 number and you are greeted by “human resources.” This is human resources on a grand scale — one of the offerings is a Department of Conscious Re-imagining. As in, re-imagine your entire conscious life. Now whether that comes true or not — that’s up to you. But it’s a startling moment of uncomfortableness, and at the same time, a frisson of hope.
So, just as with any telephone tree, you have to listen to the options “because the choices have changed” (and you might find yourself rolling your eyes at that very real and very petty piece of ridiculousness that seemingly every company likes to put us through). Then you make your first choice and down the rabbit hole you tumble. But, since this is “human resources,” there are lots of other rabbit holes to fall into.
There are ostensibly four options (number three, Tech Support, never really comes on but turns into a lot of fun): Claims of Unhappiness, The Waiver, Tech Support, and Option 3. There is also the ubiquitous directory by name, but since I have never mastered that I just breezed right by that one.
“Claims of Unhappiness” is by Hansol Jung and features Jin Ha and Brian Quijada as themselves. The very funny “The Waiver” is written by Brittany K. Allen and features Mia Katigbak as Lyudmila. “Option 3” is authored by Christopher Chen and performed by three actors — David Greenspan as A, Ikechukwu Ufomadu as B, and Marc Bovino as Dr Alan Vardas.
Unfortunately, I can’t describe anything else without giving away some spoilers, so I would say just buy a ticket and prepare to be surprised and jolted, in a good way.
This is a smart, witty, rather wistful and energizing experience. I have four days to enjoy it, and I plan to. At one point, listening to the “Stay on the Line” music (conceived and performed by Zeniba Now and Teddy Roxpin), I suddenly found myself doing a “Footloose”-style dance up and down the hallway in the house. It was ridiculous, fun, and I enjoyed every minute, although the cats took refuge under the beds. I doubt I’ll ever have that much fun on hold again.
I can listen to it again and I plan to this weekend as well as go through the options I didn’t get to because, why not? I might find an inkling of an answer or a question. Whatever I find, it’s a lovely respite from the everyday world.
This was my first experience with Telephone Literary Union. In their own words: “Telephonic Literary Union makes stories for very small audiences using phones, thoughtfully curated environments, and the theater of the mind. TLU is a collaboration of Sarah Lunnie, Stowe Nelson and Yuvika Tolani, in cahoots with a rotating band of co conspirators.” I hope to have an opportunity to dive into one of their worlds again.
This is a part of Woolly Mammoth’s 2020-21 season which offers risk-taking and innovative theatrical experiences such as this. They’ve been doing this for nearly 40 years and this concept was new to me. It is also delightful that one can still be surprised by an established theatre.
Running Time: Whatever you want it to be.
“Human Resources” runs from Thursdays at 12:01 a.m. through Sundays to 11:59 p.m. from October 1 through October 25, 2020. Please click here for more information.