Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Apocalypse Nowish

It is the distant future. Suspected terrorists are taken to remote locations and water boarded for information. Plastic electronic devices gather data about people’s movements and track any atypical travel patterns. The world is made a little bit safer everyday due to the hard work of the Department of Homeland Security, but fear and panic are on the rise. Seem familiar? The world of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is hardly science fiction; it is the natural progression of events if we continue on our current path.

Little Brother begins with the destruction of the Bay Bridge by terrorists. In an instant everyone is a suspect, especially impressionable whippersnappers who are prime candidates for fighting the establishment. Enter Marcus Yallow, a.k.a. “w1n5t0n/M1k3y” who, after being detained in a secret prison by his own government, is ready to take a stand to save his friends, family, and country. Marcus understands the timeless words of Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” and is willing to sacrifice everything for freedom. I love this book, not just because two of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld, recommend it, but because it stirs important questions about security, civil disobedience, and growing up. After finishing this book, I was ready to read it again and gain something completely different. If you only read one book this year, let it be this one – especially if the world is indeed coming to an end.

It is not often when two of my favorite things, dystopian novels and theatre, come together, but this week I had the pleasure of seeing Little Brother performed by the Griffin Theatre Company at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago. When I walked in, I had no idea what to expect. The story demanded technological savvy and digital finesse – and they delivered. Using a minimalist set, plastic benches and aluminum gates became the school, Gitmo-on-the-bay, and Marcus’s home. Lighting and sound effects contributed to the emotional experience of the characters. I never quite understood the trauma of Marcus’s experience when he was detained until I saw him being manhandled and questioned by the DHS in a dimly lit cell. The audience was not protected from any of the horrors, even as far as witnessing Marcus’s water boarding scene. Actually observing someone being water boarded, even if it is theatrical, is enough to make it repugnant and horrifying – which, I suppose, is the point. The designers made the production as real as possible, including YouTube, local news, and security camera videos that amazed me in their authenticity. However, even those who are not particularly tech-savvy could understand the technical jargon and counterculture. When introducing new concepts, Marcus, played by the fantastic Mike Harvey, would speak directly to the audience and engage us in explanations about the X-Net, arphids, and LARPing. Each of the actors stepped into the role created by Cory Doctorow and made it his or her own. The highest praise I can give to an theatrical adaptation of a book is that it was true to the novel, and this production of Little Brother stirred the same questions and desire to disobey anyone ever twenty-five. Do yourself a favor and go see Little Brother before it closes on July 19th!

Little Brother Information:

Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3:00pm.

Ticket $15 - $25.

For Tickets Call 800-982-2787. Tickets may be purchased in person up to one hour before showtime at the Athenaeum Theatre box office.

For general information about the production or to reserve your subscription seats please call 1-773-769-2228. Ext 1.

Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport Ave. Chicago.

You can also try http://www.hottix.org/ - just scroll down.

Meet Author Cory Doctorow at the July 9th performance! If anyone is interested in going with me to this performance, please let me know ASAP!

* Image above from the Griffin Theatre Blog - check out more amazing images from the production by going to http://griffintheatre.blogspot.com/

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