Somewhere in the not too distant dystopian future, an unnamed disaster has separated humans into a socially isolated indoor world where the only means of interaction is via digital channels.
In Hannah Khalil‘s play Metaverse, now onstage at Corrib Theatre, The Mother (Wynee Hu), a tech developer, works around the clock to find a way to replicate human touch in Virtual Reality. Her most fervent desire is to reunite with her teenage daughter (Annabel Cantor). As it is, all they have is the play’s equivalent of Zoom meetings. We all know how satisfying those can be! They long to touch. The Daughter reminds The Mother of their plans to have a vacation. The Daughter is told the vacation may be on hold for a while.
The Woman (Jerilyn Armstrong), The Mother’s boss, delivers words of encouragement and vague promises to keep The Mother glued to her workaholic schedule. Meanwhile, a creepy Artificial Intelligence (Quinn Mulligan) lurks in the background. As the bureaucracy of the company becomes more opaque and The Mother’s quest is more elusive, she becomes increasingly paranoid. Her daughter seems more distant and depressed. Is is real, or is it her imagination.
This is a chilling tale, and if it feels familiar it’s because we know all too well how quickly this sort of horror can become real. As such, its impact on the audience is the equivalent of a gut punch. While Khalil’s play was written in 2019 as science fiction, the arrival of the global pandemic has thrust it front and center into our new, changed world. Once upon a time, we remember, George Orwell’s 1984 was science fiction. Not anymore.
Holly Griffith, Corrib’s new artistic director, directs Metaverse. The creative team includes Abbie Northrop, assistant director/stage and production manager; Kyra Sanford, scenic/props designer; Allison Normin Johnson, costume designer; Kelly Terry, lighting designer; Quinn Mulligan, sound designer; and Amanda Vander Hyde, intimacy and fight choreographer.
Corrib Theatre’s mission is to bring Irish playwrights’ unique perspective on oppression and empowerment, and conflict and resolution, to Portland in order to change our world for the better. It engages, inspires, entertains, and challenges audiences with theatrical productions dealing with universal issues filtered through the Irish experience. Hannah Kahlil is a distinguished modern Irish playwright of Palestinian descent. She currently is Resident Writer at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Metaverse runs through December 18 at 2110 SE 10th Ave., Portland, 97214. Tickets are available here.