Throughout the 20th century playwrights from Samuel Beckett to Spalding Gray wrote plays and monologues that questioned the dignity of modern life. The Builders Association, a New York-based theater group, adds to this theatrical genre with their latest piece, Continuous City -- but with a multimedia twist. Continous City suggests that man's essential crisis is less existential than technological. The short but sweet 80-minute production focuses on four characters: Mike, a globetrotting Internet consultant; his daughter, Sam; her nanny, Deb; and an Internet mogul, J.V., who has employed Mike to promote a social networking Web site, Xubu, that will unite friends and families separated by distance. What emerges from these digital interactions is a fairly grim picture of the kinds of relationships that people have grown accustomed to. While Web sites such as Xubu allow greater access to more people and places, they also can foil richer relationships by shifting the priority from real-life relationships to virtual ones.
54 revieWs go back to men professionally inured Mumford’s writings on tall build- Beckett to Spalding Gray wrote plays to keep awake, to minding signals, to ings are dated now not just for their and monologues that questioned the facing sudden emergencies.... If the aesthetic opinions, but because they dignity of modern life. The Builders Futurama program wins out, it should are so colored by his leftist political Association, a New York–based theater do more to undermine the individual views. When Mumford was writing, it group, adds to this theatrical genre use of the motorcar than the most was the norm for critics to let their with their latest piece, Continuous City drastic reductions in railroad fares.” personal politics guide their aesthetic — but with a multimedia twist. In the Apparently the notion that America preferences — that is, to see architec- 21st century, when we ask ourselves would tolerate 40,000 traffic fatalities ture largely through the prism of what not “Why am I here?” but “What is a year did not occur to Mumford. it represented. That kind of critique, my Facebook status?”, Continous City Some of Mumford’s aesthetic prin- especially when it comes to corporate suggests that man’s essential crisis is ciples are dated as well. Although he architecture, is hardly in vogue these less existential than technological. was a fan of Modernism, he was decid- days. Maybe it will return. Clay Risen The short but sweet 80-minute edly anti-skyscraper. He viewed the recently argued in Democracy, a center- production focuses on four characters: buildings as oversized corporate egos left political quarterly, that “starchi- Mike, a globetrotting Internet in physical form, manifestations of cap- tects” should not take commissions consultant; his daughter, Sam; her italism run amok. Mumford described from oppressive regimes such as the nanny, Deb; and an Internet mogul, the skyscraper as “the businessman’s Chinese government. Lewis Mumford J.V., who has employed Mike to toy, his plaything,” a structure used would have been pleased. promote a social networking Web site, to “foster and reap a financial harvest Xubu (tag line: Why Lose Touch?), from congestion.” As the Depression Theater that will unite friends and families set in, Mumford predicted, “The sky- separated by distance. scraper period is fast coming to an end, and the skyscraper, as we knew it dur- Lost in While the impending launch of Xubu drives the plot and sends Mike ing the past fifty years, has pretty well reached the peak of its development.” Dislocation everywhere from Africa to China, the production’s intrigue is really the Whether or not Mumford’s views had By Diana Lind irony of online communication and merit, he has long since lost the argu- the dislocation that comes with it. To ment. It would be hard to imagine a continuous city Throughout the get this point across, the production New York architecture critic today who The Builders 20th century, transcends a theater’s traditional thinks buildings taller than ten stories association playwrights boundaries of stage and seat. are inherently suspect. from Samuel Characters deliver their lines by phone “Experimental geography” is a term
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