Review: ADDRESSLESS from Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is Interactive and Illuminating

Virtual performances through February 13

By: Jan. 18, 2022
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Review: ADDRESSLESS from Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is Interactive and Illuminating

Imaginative, interactive and illuminating, ADDRESSLESS humanizes the plight of three homeless and nomadic New Yorkers who are forced to keep couch surfing, shelter hopping, street roaming and panhandling to survive winter and beyond. While the trio of actor-avatars encounter systemic barriers at the socio-political intersection of age, race, gender, ability, employment, income and health, the at-home audience is invited to help them choose their next move...which could directly impact their immediate or long-term well-being.

Created/directed by Martin Boross and written by Jonathan Payne, this global premiere from Rattlestick Playwrights Theater doesn't gamify the lives of "addressless" people at the expense of their dignity; rather, it builds emotional and ethical momentum as a multi-player audience-inclusive virtual experience that breaks the fourth wall through a creative combination of recorded performances, voiceovers, animation and real-time interactive discussion. Through conversation and typed chats, we guide three avatar/actors through a series of escalating day-to-day-to-night challenges. The "cash and prizes" of this more-than-a-game-show include a short list of compulsory resources that too often can be taken for granted: a job, health, money, relationships and safety.

Josie (Bianca Norwood), Louis (Joey Auzenne) and Wallace (the formerly homeless and current activist Shams DaBaron, aka "Da Homeless Hero") are joined by a supporting cast that includes Faith Catlin, Chima Chikazunga, Paten Hughes, Mahira Kakkar, Tara Khozein, Michael Laurence, Olivia Oguma, Lisa Ramirez, Keith Randolph Smith, and Alok Tewari.

Overseeing the three rounds of competition is Hope Beaver, an affable and informative social worker who explains the rules up front and offers intermittent guidance and context between scenes. "Fear will blur the lines," she says, encouraging Team Josie, Team Louis and Team Wallace to strategize to keep their avatars on track to amass the funds needed to secure a spot in a housing lottery.

Repeatedly, the road to housing security is pocked with pitfalls. At a food stamp hearing, Louis asks, "How can I attend the hearing when the letter arrives the day after the hearing?" Wallace juggles sobriety, parenthood, and a potential new girlfriend ("I'm committed to rise like a phoenix, set my pride aside and speak out.") Josie reminds us that "A shelter is not like a college dorm" as they attempt to create a life as a talented non-binary artist finding their way in a cisnormative society.

During its two-hour run time, ADDRESSLESS keep us invested in the characters' narratives by calling us in to co-create the story with them, not for them. Socio-politically aware, technically smooth and creatively sound, ADDRESSLESS succeeds as an interactive moving experience about the quest for a place to stay, to be, to thrive.

ADDRESSLESS runs through February 13. Order tickets here.

Each Friday is pay-as-you-wish, with five tickets to be given out to select individuals who are personally experiencing housing insecurity.


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