Thursday, September 21, 2017

WET Programs A Good One With “Teh Internet”

Some of the large cast of Teh Internet Is Serious Business (Jeff Carpenter)
Teh Internet Is Serious Business
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through October 2, 2017

The press release blurb for Washington Ensemble Theatre’s mounting of Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Tim Price says, “Forward slash forward slash, angle bracket, quotation, command, dialogue, angle bracket, semicolon: it’s 2004, the year hacktivist group Anonymous emerged as a can’t-be-tamed digital authority with unexpected influence. This mercurial and irreverent tale follows the network’s pointed take down of the Church of Scientology and ponders the revolution of online global power. Called “liberating” and “enlightening” by The Guardian, Washington Ensemble Theatre will mount Tim Price’s smart and captivating play. Can you feel the lulz?”

I’m not sure what the description prepares you for, but embedded in the description is the fact that the play is “about” a real piece of actual Internet history. The way that playwright Price goes about telling that compelling history is incisive and interesting and, as produced by director Wayne Rawley and the team at WET, it’s a very entertaining story.

Rawley infuses the piece with song and dance, with the help of choreographer Alyza DelPan-Monley, to great effect. There is no such direction from Price about how to create the world he writes about. So Rawley and company have a bit of free rein to run with creative ideas.

In particular, Rawley decided against a whole bunch of laptops and people typing at each other! The play is written essentially about people across the world connecting with each other via the Internet, so they don’t meet and talk in person. Here, though, that convention is stood on its head and a sort of freewheeling, meet-and-dissolve action is created. You might think of it as oil swirling around in water.

Infusing choreography, then, is an almost natural segue! It helps unite and break up the action and the dialogue and keep the play alive.

But the key aspect of the evening has to be the absolutely brilliant set/lighting work of Tristan Roberson. You have to see it to believe it. And so I’m not even going to describe it. You seriously have to see it. No matter what else you think of the play, his contribution is mind-blowing, both in essential simplicity and also in bringing to life Internet actions such as coding. (I am not suggesting his work is simple. I am stating that what he creates, however complicated it was to create it, ends up as a sublime simplicity in storytelling.) The play cannot be the play without it.

As far as the subject matter and message, there’s a lot to ponder over what the “untamed” Internet has unleashed on the world. The history focuses on those who immediately grasped the opportunities presented, the teenagers who absorbed Internet usage like snacks, and then saw and used the almost unlimited power to roam around in packs of non-moral arbiters. There is little moral about the Internet, now, and this play helps explain why.

For more information, go to or call (206) 325-5105.

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