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Review: The Human Voice Versus the Internet in ‘Octet’


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Review: The Human Voice Versus the Internet in ‘Octet’


Henry (Alex Gibson) can’t stop playing candy-themed games. Paula sings of arid, sleepless nights in which she and her husband lie on sheets illuminated by “the pale, stale glow” of screens. The other members create walls and tunnels of sound, building the virtual landscape inhabited by each main speaker.

The shaming of Jessica is rendered as a hydra-headed, unkillable mob. The sickly sugar rush of Henry’s games takes the form of a bacchanalian revival meeting. (No choreographer is credited, but these numbers are staged with wild and witty precision.)

Without our being aware of it, the room has become darker (Christopher Bowser did the lighting), and the testimonies lead us down clammier, twistier corridors. There are tales of Tinder-esque mate-seeking and porn consumption (recounted by Kim Blanck, with memorable assistance from Adam Bashian).

After that, we fall into an increasingly murky abyss, where the codes and consequences, the trawling and trolling of the internet are considered with scorching, circular cynicism by Toby (Justin Gregory Lopez). Marvin (J.D. Mollison), a neurological researcher, relates a fantastical story about the slippery nature of faith in a world where any reality can be conjured virtually.

Then Velma (Kuhoo Verma), the newcomer, relates a quiet, heartfelt account of connecting with someone in a distant land who would seem to be just like her. Sweet, huh? There’s nothing sinister here. Except that this virtual friendship is all she lives for.

There are several hymns in the show, filled with lush lyricism, about the quest for purity in a world of contaminants. The one that concludes the performance is so ravishing, so seemingly affirmative that you leave the theater thinking you have witnessed an undeniable victory of collaborative, creative humanity over runaway technology.

Then again, just who is this Saul? Is he even real? And why has he brought these particular chosen ones together?

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