116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As technology spirals closer and closer to an all-seeing, all-knowing Big Brother modality, “Private” raises moral and ethical issues on so many levels.
Even the set design in Mirrorbox Theatre’s latest professional production gives audience members an almost voyeuristic view akin to watching a reality TV show implode under constant scrutiny.
Mirrorbox offered an online reading of New York playwright Mona Pirnot’s developing script in 2020, and now is presenting the Iowa premiere of a full production through May 22 in the lower level Grandon Studio at Theatre Cedar Rapids.
What: Mirrorbox Theatre presents the Iowa premiere of “Private”
Where: Grandon Studio, lower level of Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE
When: Through May 22; 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or theatrecr.org/event/private/2022-05-12/
Show details: mirrorboxtheatre.com/private/
One of the most amazing opening night surprises May 12 was not hearing a single note from “The Sound of Music” onstage upstairs. So don’t let that dissuade you from attending. Just be sure to plan accordingly for downtown parking and dining.
Set in the near future, “Private” peels back layer after layer of issues when a young husband, Corbin, accepts a project engineer position that requires 24/7 monitoring of conversations with his wife, Georgia, as well as others, under the guise of listening for trigger words that might indicate corporate espionage.
Corbin’s new tech-world job means a gigantic jump in pay, which will open the doors to everything from buying an actual couch to recording singer/songwriter Georgia’s dream album.
But just who is the dreamer in this marriage? And what happens when fantasy collides with reality? As the action unfolds, all these dreams inch ever closer to a nightmare precipice.
It takes a brilliant cast to pull off this brilliant play, and Mirrorbox director Cavan Hallman has answered both challenges with actors Jordan Arnold, Matthew James, Angelica Luz Fink and Aaron Pozdol.
Arnold and James have become fixtures for excellence on Corridor stages.
Pozdol charmed TCR audiences as Toad in “A Year with Frog and Toad” and the outrageous father in “Matilda.” What a delight to see him embody Georgia’s rather slovenly best friend, musical partner and confidant, Jordan, who continues to live an “Animal House” life way past its prime.
I felt like I was seeing Fink for the first time, even though she has appeared on Mirrorbox, TCR and Brucemore stages. Her turn in “Private” is most impressive. She has memorable polar opposite scenes as Abbey, administrative assistant to the mysterious Raina, a force with which to be reckoned on the startup level as well as on a personal level with her employees, from whom Raina requires full obedience at all times.
The first time we meet Abbey, she is the perpetually perky, impenetrable wall between Corbin and Raina. Any question Corbin has for Raina, Abbey can answer.
Georgia is adamant that Corbin negotiate his way out of the monitoring “perk” in the employee benefits package. So Corbin returns to the office at Georgia’s bidding, and at every turn, Abbey lays down the stop sticks with a Stepford smile. When Georgia later meets Abbey in person, Abbey is spinning out of control, like a robot whose circuits have been fried.
Arnold and James flawlessly play their cat-and-mouse negotiations at home, with Georgia as the aggressor and Corbin as the timid spouse mouse trying to allay his wife’s fears. However, he explodes them in the process, with Pozdol’s friend as an unwitting pawn.
Director Hallman moves this 80-minute production at a taut pace, with no intermission. The echoing, distorted dialogue in Bri Atwood’s sound design between scenes adds to the sci-fi feel that is perhaps more science than fiction. Chantelle Mobberley’s sparse, stark scenic design and Jim Vogt’s lighting augment that atmosphere. Emily Ganfield’s costume design reminds viewers that this “future” is not too far off.
The action will have you on the edge of your seat, sometimes uncomfortably, but always analyzing the “what if” possibilities from a personal point of view.
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