Last week, The WCU Theater Department put on a production of a lifetime — well, purely our lifetime. Set entirely in the modern day digital landscape of Zoom, the video communication app through which most of our education is delivered, “Unmute Yourself” portrays an uncomfortably relevant reality.
The original and entirely student-run presentation was hosted on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24. Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre** Charlie Delmarcelle, “Unmute Yourself” dissects the challenges of connecting with one another purely through digital means. Weaving between live performances and prerecorded barrages of TikToks in a choppy, attention-deficit type manner, pursuing satirization of a world we are still very much entrenched in.
Unique to our pandemic-frenzied times, “Unmute Yourself” is produced without the use of any traditional theater facilities, instead using the bedroom backdrops and happenstance scenery of the student’s own home as the settings.
In a statement given prior to the production, Delmarcelle says, “Unmute Yourself has been an artistic experiment for all of us. In my 27 years of doing theater, I’ve never built a show where the ensemble members haven’t set foot, not once, in a physical rehearsal room.”
“Unmute Yourself” leans into the restrictions of our age, using them as necessary ingredients to tell its story, as opposed to hindrances or compromises. In fact, a number of interesting, if novel, storyline techniques have come from this. As we watch “Unmute Yourself,” we are suddenly thrust into a third-party observation role, now subject to our own reflections as we peak into the tiring and cringeworthy exchanges each of us lend our attention to each day. The observer is, on many occasions during the show, given the opportunity to vote on what a character should say. Utilizing the chat function in this way revolutionizes the age old “choose your own story” platform often reserved for children’s books and comics.
A number of outstanding performances were given by the cast members. Actor Aaron Kirk gave a convincing portrayal of a stood-up Zoom caller, being left without a partner as technical difficulties persist. With the character alone on the screen, a fourth-wall breaking occurs and Kirk addresses the audience directly. Like this scene, a number of instances arise, leaving the observer saying, “Is this written into the play? This is too real.”
“Unmute Yourself” offers a truly contemporary take on theater. It not only successfully replicates the times in which we live but delivers it through the contemporary lens of Zoom. All great art acts as commentary on its cultural parameters, but “Unmute Yourself” has done so with unparalleled realness and self-referentiality.
Justin Bifolco is a sixth-year English Major with a minor in Journalism. JB933932@wcupa.edu