by Sergei Burbank · January 24, 2014
The Skype Show unfolds in a series of near-chronological scenes set over the course of 2013, as bandmates and lovers Jody Christopherson and Michael de Roos struggle to maintain their parallel creative and romantic relationships following Michael’s return to his native Netherlands upon the expiration of his visa. The majority of the play is spent in Jody’s apartment, where Michael appears via projection; the customary challenges of maintaining an emotional connection are compounded by the added element of their creative partnership: Michael is threatened by the idea of Jody’s even rehearsing with another musician, even as he begins to embark upon his own creative career back home. Jody finds that she is living with Michael’s ghost in the apartment they used to share, and her days spent waiting for his return increasingly feel like a stall rather than a pause.
Her attempts to cajole de Roos to complete an artist visa application and commit to a stateside return transition from pleas to ultimatums. The urgency is not merely that of a lover, however: the two comprise the band Greencard Wedding, and from a whirlwind gestation it is clear that there is an element of needing to strike while the iron is hot: as their Skype conversations become increasingly tetchy, invitations for gigs grow fewer and further between. When Christopherson warns de Roos that people are going to forget about them, there is also the worry that they might forget each other -- at least, the good parts.
The sparse production uses its video elements well, and it is an interesting contrast to share the room with Christopherson’s reserved energy, while de Roos’ ebullience pours out via the screen. Unlike the production of Jeffrey Jackson’s Two Point Oh at 59E59 Theaters late last year, there is no metacritical suspense as to whether de Roos is actually with us in the theater: the chronological scenes are interrupted with a handful of “flashbacks” in which the two actors share the stage. It is an interesting choice, as the audience shares Christopherson’s experience of de Roos as a ghost -- more vivid in memory than in the present, where he is only a shadow on a screen.
We do get to hear some of Greencard Wedding’s songs, and their inclusion (along with live mics) help the show as it straddles the line between play-with-music and cabaret-with-set. We chronicle their attempts to find a narrative vehicle that will allow them to reunite under the guise of producing a show -- after Romeo and Juliet and similar ideas fail, they decide that their attempt is the show … the show we’re now watching.
It is a winsome idea, yet -- like many long-distance relationships -- it becomes problematic in the flesh. Jody and Michael (playing themselves) are clearly more at ease when they can break theatrical conventions and engage with the audience directly, and most at ease when they are singing and composing with each other. The moments of their shared joy in creation are wonderful to witness; the agony of waiting for their reunion -- while no doubt accurately portrayed -- are less compelling to outsiders as they are to those who lived through it.
When it soars, the evening works as a love letter to leaps of faith, and is easily recognizable to anyone who has had the joy/misery of finding/losing a pure creative partner. It has all the rollicking energy and reckless abandon of following an improvised melody, without much care for what’s supposed to come next, just so long as you keep the song going for as long as you can.