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Sunday, 10 February 2013 16:54

'Connected' by Lia Romeo at HotCity Theatre

Written by Robert Mitchell
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'Connected' by Lia Romeo at HotCity Theatre
hotcitytheatre.org

The world premiere by Lia Romeo at HotCity Theater offers a fresh and funny look at the lives of Ladue high school students and their use - and misuse - of social technology

Yep. In 2013 there are a zillion ways in which technology enhances our lives: we can access libraries of info with the press of a few buttons, we can download any type of entertainment we wish with the swipe of a fingertip, and the forward surges in modern medicine are downright miraculous - but, is technology killing human interaction, especially in our kids? This is the question at the heart of "Connected", a newly-commissioned work by Lia Romeo at HotCity Theatre.

Set amongst a group of teens at Ladue High, Connected takes a look at four of the types of social technology common among youngsters (although the rest of us are quickly catching up). Romeo, with a quick wit, and wicked sense of humor, blithely introduces us to our cast of heroes and anti-heroes, then gives us a peek into their electronically enhanced - some might say hampered - lives in four fun and lively vignettes.

In Part I, socially awkward Meghan finds herself an overnight Internet sensation, quickly garnering prime spots on Good Morning America, The View and Rachel Ray, after her attempt at seducing a boy into going to prom with her goes viral. But, even instant fame, and a Facebook fan page with thousands of "friends" can't make her happy. But can the geeky "boy next door"?

In Part II, Jill and Sarah can't seem to find the right party. Even with ever-shifting tweets and Facebook status reports from friends, they always seem to be one step behind, even tho' they're the popular girls. At THE worst party, they meet Sam, an affable, albeit slightly stoned loser, who strikes up a tenuous friendship with school hottie Jill, who drunkenly leaves her heart out on her sleeve. And, of course, when morning comes, all is back to normal - the geek doesn't get the girl, and the status quo is maintained yet again.

In Part III, the gaming community gets skewered when aimless Sharon - who turns down a job at the copy store because it conflicts with her gaming schedule - ventures out into the real world to accept an IRL (in real life) date from one of her Warcraft Guild brothers in a bar, where he discovers she is still in high school. Oops.

In Part IV, two bored hoodrats, set up a fake dating profile to entrap their math teacher, Ms. Haverill, in what they think is good fun. When they catch her in the park bawling her eyes out after being stood up, young Jarred finds every excuse he can to try to apologize, and after realizing that teachers are human beings, too, he begins to crush on her a little, before finally realizing that he has to stay in the "friend zone".

Direction by Chuck Harper focuses in on each dilemma like a laser, but never skips mining the consider comic gold inherit in each piece. He obviously knows this age group, and their idiosyncracies, and plays them up to great effect.

The six actors, playing a total of 20 characters, are wonderful to watch, and each has many fine moments throughout the taut 90 minutes. The veteran actress Cooper Shaw does fun work as Rachel's mom and the Copy Store Mgr., but really shines as the heart-broken, but bemused, Ms. Haverill. Jake Bucher's best work is as sweet and funny geek-next-door Jeremy, who seeks to win Rachel's heart. Pete Winfrey is best as the gamer who gets stuck on a date with the teenage Sharon. Helen Estes does really excellent work, hilarious as an air-headed local talk show host, and then bitchy and unexpectedly heart-rending as popular girl Jill. Jack Dryden shows incredible range and is perfect spot dead-on in all three of his roles: Jeremy's gay bestie, Scott; the wise beyond his years social outcast, Sam (my favorite role of his; and as contrite and puppy-love-struck Jarred. Last, but not least, Caitlyn Mickey is absolutely killer in all three of her roles: hilarious as awkward Rachel, vapid as drunken Sarah and lost and somewhat pathetic as gamer Sharon. Kudos to all the actors.

For such a relatively light, (and somewhat lightweight) show Romeo and Harper manage to give us plenty to think about, even as we laugh at (or along with) these characters, and that, folks, IS theater.

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