24 May 2020
In the span of 3 hours, you get six calls. Six calls ranging about ten minutes. Some of these calls you may interact in and some you may just listen. This is your theatrical experience. Theatre delivered over the phone to you. Stories created for this time of shutdown and distancing delivered to your designated phone number.
When participating in the Corona Variations it is like walking from window to window on a residential street peering inside (yes I know that is not exactly the safe thing to do right now….or ever but please bear along with the metaphor). Each window gives you a small but different glimpse into a variation of how life is going for people in this COVID-19 time.
The variety of different stories provides an effective diverse platter of both entertainment and insight. Stories could range from friends who haven’t seen each other in a while, to a call to a therapist, to a family sick of each other and only communicating over phones even though they are right beside each other, to conspiracy theorists, to a sex club attempting their first over-the-phone orgy. (Note: This is not the actual list. Or is it? You’re gonna have to pick up the phone to find out).
Some of these stories call for audience interaction but don’t worry you, are given your instructions ahead of time. These interactive stories are some of the most exciting in the play (while also being easy to follow and play along with) because now you are part of the story. Not just part of the story but part of the story using your own personal phone and in your own personal space. There is a level of intimacy that is brought on by having these audience interactions not in a theatre but in one’s home. There was a moment where I forgot I was participating in a show and not having an actual real-world conversation.
The variety of stories performed by the different casts are all engaging to listen to, though some of them could afford to tighten up the writing a little bit. Future development of these short performances could benefit from not trying to cram so many topics and content into a small time slot but rather letting a little material go a long way.
At the end of it all, you will be glad to get these phone calls. Audiences will find something to relate to or empathize in at least one of the stories and even though not all of them have a happy ending, there is a feeling of validation from hearing the wide variety of experiences that are represented in this piece. The voice acting and direction immerse you in each of these tales and more importantly can provide a moment of connection and togetherness in a time where we may feel disconnected and alone.