George Orwell’s “1984” imagines a world in perpetual war. In their prolix dystopian theater piece “Returning to Albert Joseph,” writer Spike Friedman and The Satori Group envision a society in a continual state of peace.
But even in the sedated realm of Albert Joseph, a didactic figurehead who may be alive or not, rebels like Leo (Quinn Franzen) and Andrea (LoraBeth Barr) arise. More than regime change, they fervently seek something — anything — to care about.
The premise of a fascist order of brain control and “psych cleaving” that leech all meaning from language and memory is a disturbing (and possible?) prospect in an age of advanced bioengineering. Big Brother here is a film loop of Joseph, whose phony benevolence frustrates engagement — like so much of canned political media.
What happens if verbal communication is so corrupted it becomes ephemeral, useless? Is love still possible?
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“Albert Joseph” (created collaboratively by Friedman, co-directors Caitlin Sullivan and Alex Matthews, intriguing scenic artist Cate McCrea and other Satori Group members) does not follow the implications very far or reveal enough about the society Leo and Andrea are up against. Too soon circular, cerebral monologues dominate, at the expense of viscerally engaging drama.
As usual, the Satori performers are intense and invested, seizing on the bloated text’s flickers of bleak poetry and acute emotion. Yet long before it ends, the edge of urgency in “Albert Joseph” dulls.
Misha Berson: email@example.com