‘#iambadatthis’ – A Review
#iambadatthis – A Review
by guest staff reviewer Eric Yokomori
Looking at the programme, a bespectacled young woman navigating light bulbs, I erroneously thought this was a play about ideas. Or a treasure hunt. The play is #iambadatthis by Susan Soon He Stanton, playing over at good old Kumu Kahua Theatre. Though somewhat billed as a play about technology, not really so much and not so much a play either. Found myself looking down at my shoes for some of it just listening. Really effective way of hearing things. Though there was something about Shawn Anthony Thomsen’s portrayal of the mother figure that I liked looking at his face for. It’s just so round. The way he smiled when saying “this is your mother” really brought something home to me, of the love a mother has for a child. I could feel that warmth and that tenderness in his large angelic face. Same could be said for Daniel A Kelin’s II portrayal of the father figure–really interesting fellow. The stuttering and something about the soft feathery quality of his hair when it would shake so slightly like a baby bird during his conversations. I wish I knew that much about music. Satan’s triad. I had to look that up. Figures into the play depending on how deep you want to dig. We’re not digging that deep here. Okay, let’s explain it. It’s really a symbol of the structure of the play which like the reference to Charles Ives compositional theory, an overlapping of existing compositions that create a new and unique composition. Emily’s overlapping life is Satan’s triad.
But it’s not about technology, not really. Unless you count communication, or a blanketing meaninglessness. But, not everything is meaningless, if it’s taken seriously, if it’s looked at honestly. So, the phone calls are more of a way to structure the play than a theme. I had to think about whether the play would’ve been more effective had it more traditional methods, meaning the actress actually meeting with these people, and I think it wouldn’t. So it’s there. Like it or not. You can’t really see her with anyone and you never do because you never get to see her behave like an adult. The closest thing you have is the conversation she has with Bill Tapia, who is a hundred and four years old. The oldest living musician in the play. The oldest living person in the play. And it’s on tape.
It took a while to really see what this play is about, because it really sort of gets in the way of itself; it’s so smart. You want to think it’s about this woman Emily (Kirstyn Trombetta) and how she wants EVERYTHING and how her technologically-assisted relationships keep her from realizing her potential or some existential depth. But, really, it’s about a young woman on the cusp of adulthood who is denied adulthood because she is still behaving like a child. Early in the play she takes a radio job, performing as a love interest, later it turns into a real love interest with a guy she knew from junior high or high school (can’t remember). Her parents are divorcing. She moves in with her father. Her best friend is on the outs with her husband. She sleeps with her boss hoping to get a permanent job. There are themes of deception throughout the play, of people lying. Of things ending. And Emily is a liar, and we find that out later.
Let’s find that out now. We find out at the end of the play *spoiler* that Emily was pregnant back in New York with her then boyfriend Sebastian. She had an etopic pregnanacy and the chances of birthing were minuscule, but like a child, Emily held onto that chance, never telling her boyfriend the situation but carrying on as though the pregnancy were normal. She loses the baby. She admits this at the end of the play after a car crash nearly kills her, she’s drunk, she has to be stopped, she cannot be allowed to leave the island and continue this behavior. She hits a telephone pole. Like god. She calls her friend and spills her guts. It’s at this point, really, this confession, that pushes Emily into the adult world. She’s forced to be honest, childhood is over, and not just plain honest, but honest about love. She’s met another priest before, back in New York, when she was nearly hit by a car after her break up, that priest tells her “do not cry on the subway”, do not act out like a child. But it’s this “priest”, her friend, who hears her confession, that she lied to that boyfriend, and lost the baby. But, she didn’t just lose the baby, she lost herself. She lost her grown up self.
The times we see Emily dealing with romantic longings, she is in the grotesque, playing characters on a radio show acting out “real” relationships. Trading sex for employment, ending a potential relationship because of high school grievances. She’s reverted to being a child because she is “playing”. She isn’t ready for the responsibilities that real love requires. It takes her nearly losing her life. It takes a miracle. And, that’s what adulthood is really, a sort of miracle, that you look back on, reflect on, you don’t see it coming. At the end of the play, her story is running on Bill Tapia, the oldest living musician at 104 years old.
It’s important to understand, for all it’s spinning, this is really a story about the transition from childhood to adulthood. I think how that happens, not just for Emily, but for anyone, I think that it happens when we are honest about love.
In the conversation with Bill Tapia he’s going on about his wife who passed away and suddenly can’t remember who Emily is. Love is awareness.
Bill Tapia’s arm is broken. Emily’s life is broken.
Franklin’s a landscape architect. The play is like architecture, like landscape architecture, with no building.
The play could go on forever, really, there is no immediacy to it’s conclusion, it’s concluded by a car crash, by an act of fate. Love is a miracle. Life is a miracle. They are both surprises.
The diary, the book club. Both require reading someone else’s words.
8 cups of tea. Ha ha ha. No really, Emily is really smart. So smart, she must be sexualized by a foreigner speaking a second language.
Pretends to be a woman attracted to a man pretending to be a man attracted to her pretend mother. Love is complicated.
Language is a theme, musical language, performance language, written language. What they have in common is they are all used to deceive.