What’s that? Come again?
Something has gone a little wrong with the Red Chair Players’ play “Clickbait,” which is currently showing at C on Chambers Street. The play has a young female cast, apparently from a high school in Connecticut, but whilst high school theatre can be now and then surprisingly good, this show is, for Tychy, somewhat out of earshot. I was going to liken it to trying to watch a television in a pub, since the noise from the theatres above and below this C level occasionally wander painfully over the play. I was going to joke that they should hand out hearing aids to the entering audience. Yet this is unfair – “Clickbait” is just not entirely comfortable to listen to. The play seems to be confined to the stage and all of the audio doesn’t quite reach the audience.
In this respect, “Clickbait” is a faintly disappointing play rather than a bad one; a promising performance has been impaired by an elementary mistake. It is new writing and the playwright Brian Borowka, the school’s drama teacher, is obviously a keen observer of his students’ use of social media. The story is quirky and unusual; the dialogue is sometimes wickedly amusing.
Kylie is a kind of velociraptor who makes Youtube videos about shoes and dietary fads. Her brainlessness is alien and totally chilling. I doubt that any of these kids will have heard Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl,” but Borowka conceivably had it playing on repeat all the time that he was writing this play. Kylie’s sister Sophie is suffering from a rare condition called complex regional pain syndrome and she is constantly in excruciating pain. I was uncertain whether this was being played for laughs, because CRPS is a horrific reality for a handful of luckless people, but Sophie’s deadpan descriptions of her agony nonetheless sounded strangely macabre and comic when set against the nonsensical social media fundraiser which is supposed to pay for her treatment.
“Clickbait” is the antithesis of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. Waugh’s bright young things were degenerate but superbly modern and adventurous. These social media inhabitants, on the other hand, are a sterile generation, with no ideas and no resources. Our exposure to them in this play becomes decidedly frightening. As a generation, they are all absolute scum – they should surely be exterminated! In place of any justification for their existence they make string bracelets and post video clips of themselves doing charity challenges. In return, millions of Twitter followers can’t concentrate on them and they won’t remember them. Sophie’s agony is, for them, just a click.