Review Roundup: PRIVACY at the Public Theater- UPDATED!
The Public Theater and Donmar Warehouse's production of Privacy, co-created by James Graham and Josie Rourke, written by James Graham and directed by Josie Rourke runs through Sunday, August 14, and opened last night, July 18. Privacy is a timely exploration of the digital age that features De'Adre Aziza, Raffi Barsoumian, Michael Countryman, Rachel Dratch, Daniel Radcliffe, and Reg Rogers, playing an ensemble of real-life high profile politicians, journalists and technologists who have all contributed exclusively to the show.
Inspired by the revelations of Edward Snowden, Privacy explores our complicated relationship with technology and data through the funny and heart-breaking travails of a lonely guy (Daniel Radcliffe), who arrives in the city to figure out how to like, tag, and share his life without giving it all away. The play uncovers what our technological choices reveal about who we are, what we want and who's keeping track of it all. This provocative theatrical event will ask audiences to charge their phones, leave them ON during the performance and to embark on a fascinating dive online and into a new reality where we're all connected...for better or worse.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Daniel Radcliffe gives an extremely likable and empathetic performance as an introverted everyperson writer, a lonely fellow who misses his ex after a bad breakup. He moves to New York on a whim, not just because his ex now lives in Manhattan, and tries starting anew, though he's taken to sitting alone at a Broome Street diner most nights.
Ben Brantley, New York Times: "Privacy" doesn't provide much material that hasn't been rehashed many times in newspaper and magazine (and blog and vlog) essays. It can feel rather like one of those middle school instructional films that use a likable animated creature (a talking dinosaur or skeleton, maybe) to keep its distractible young viewers hooked. The scene in which I felt most engaged, confused and affected involves little techno sleight of hand, just a very deft performer (that would be Mr. Radcliffe) treading water in an improvisational sequence.
Matt Windman, amNY: Whereas Radcliffe has taken on some very challenging roles on Broadway in recent years, his function here is far more passive, with the show being directed at him and all around him, but he does show off his considerable comic abilities. As a piece of theater, "Privacy" is all over the place, but it makes its points about the utter lack of personal privacy in today's day and age with clarity as well as shock value, fast facts and fun exercises.
Christopher Kelly, NJ.com: Whether the alarums of "Privacy" strike you as terrifying or merely the inevitable (and tolerable) byproduct of a technologically-advanced, late Capitalist society, will, of course, have much to do with your personal politics. But it is also worth noting that, in crafting this show, Rourke and Graham haven't done much to consider the opposing point of view - namely, that sacrificing a measure of collective privacy might yield possible benefit and create a safer society.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Privacy," a disquieting comic-thriller inspired in part by the actions of Edward Snowden, arrives at The Public Theater at roughly the same time a national debate brews over whether Pokémon GO, with its ties to Google, can access too much of a player's personal information. Tech embracers -- or, say, anyone with an iPhone -- routinely log bits of data that together provide a glimpse into our intimate lives: finances, locations visited, sexual preferences and so on.
David Cote, TimeOut NY: More than a satire on narcissism in the age of the selfie or a limp morality tale about online anomie, Privacy gets the audience actively engaged in amusing, novel ways. We are told to keep our phones on and to connect to a Wi-Fi network at the Public Theater-through which we are encouraged to email selfies and other pictures from our photo library. Naturally, this material gets recycled ingeniously into the drama, as Radcliffe's character goes on speed dates with "volunteers" from the audience (there's as much acting magic as techno flash in the production.)
Jesse Green, Vulture: The production's tech tricks lend it an atmosphere of surprise that its content sorely lacks, and also a sense of urgency that it cannot otherwise gin up. It makes no argument, dramatic or even political because, like a lot of documentary theater - I think of the Civilians especially - its point-of-view is too diffuse. (It's also, at 2:30, too long.) When a real-world figure in the field shows up (remotely) at one point, he may elicit a gasp but does not even get to rehearse his views; he reads Shakespeare instead. It's dull. Indeed, as the work of many contributors and entirely found materials,Privacy is the theatrical equivalent of a quilt. All it can really do is comfort the convinced.
James Graham, The Guardian: What saves it is the second half, when these disparate elements of online culture are pulled together by Graham and presented as a universal threat to our very notions of personality. In what is, for the most part, a funny, smart, analytical play, the end is profoundly moving and even shocking. If the stuff that makes us us is being scattered to the four winds or handed over wholesale to Apple, what's left?
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Wait! Do you really want to click on that Baby Pandas / Neo-Nazi / S&M website? British scribe James Graham and Donmar Warehouse artistic director Josie Rourke, who co-created the mind-bending theatrical experience they call "Privacy," would like to enlighten you on how much personal data you surrender to governments and corporations (not to mention hackers) whenever you go on the web. Just buying your ticket to this show has given the Public Theater instant access to your whole life history.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: Good news for Instagram-obsessed audiences: It's totally legal to snap a selfie at the Public Theater's Privacy; an actor will even ask you to email it to the production. And for all of you who get antsy about stashing away your smartphones, here, keeping your phone on (silent!) is not only allowed, it's also part of the show; at various points, you'll need to access your phone, per the cast's instructions. Naturally, sharing is encouraged. (Kudos to the girl who admitted that Google finished her Is it wrong to search with pick up girls in a dungeon.)
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Watching "Privacy" is not unlike being on a cruise ship where the nightly entertainment alternates between mentalists and hypnotists. There's lots of audience participation - some real, some faux. Occasionally, audience members join the action on stage, but for the most part, we get to stay in our seats as actors direct us how to use our cellphones to make their points about the world's collective loss of privacy.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: Don't be surprised if you have an irresistible urge to throw away your cell phone upon exitingPrivacy, the play starring Daniel Radcliffe being presented at the Public Theater. A theatrical exploration of the insidious manner in which technology has invaded our lives and made every aspect of our existence accessible, the drama is not merely disquieting but scarily alarming. Its revelations would be even more unsettling if it weren't so damn funny.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: The production presents a dizzying amount of commentary on the Internet, its capabilities and dangers, from philosophers, academics, scientists, journalists, psychologists and others (all portrayed in quick-switch fashion by Rachel Dratch, De'Adre Aziza, Michael Countryman and Raffi Barsoumian). There's even a video appearance by (the real) exile whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus