“I don’t know about online theatre. It’s like eating a pizza with pineapple, it just doesn’t seem right to me.”Luca Molinari, London Theatre Reviews, RDU on Stage Podcast Ep. 82
When Triangle theaters shut down last March, producers and artists scrambled to master the virtual realm just to stay visible and viable. Because many theaters do not have the financial resources or technical know-how to produce faultless livestreams, they are, in fact, reinventing the wheel, similar to the television broadcasters of yesteryear.
Neither audiences nor reviewers can possibly measure the success of a virtual production, like Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Waiting for the Host, the same way they would a live show. These performances lack the finesse and comedic timing of a production like A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which opened RLT’s season last fall, or the intimacy and nuance of a drama like A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which closed RLT’s Gaddy-Goodwin series this January. In fact, RLT’s Gaddy-Goodwin black box theater has now been turned into a control room of sorts to support virtual productions like Waiting for the Host and the Teens on Stage production of She Kills Monsters, as well as the upcoming audio dramas that are part of The Midnight Dreary Festival.
For me, watching a virtual production is akin to channel surfing and stumbling upon an old black-and-white TV show like Mr. Ed. Were those shows good? By today’s standards they are campy and frothy, and yet we cut them some slack, memorialize them fondly, and recognize their creators as multimedia pioneers. We must extend the same courtesy to artists now, who are reimagining ways of storytelling using business platforms that were designed to be utilitarian, not poetic.
Marc Palmieri’s play Waiting for the Host is more a lamentation than anything else. Its comedy is laced in wordplay, some of which lands virtually and some of which does not. It is as much of an interrogation as it is a rallying cry to “stay home and save lives.” It is a prayer that the theater and the community will come together again “because it always has,” and that is a bit of reverie that delivers not only a respite but some much needed hope.
Raleigh Little Theatre’s virtual production of Mark Palmieri’s Waiting for the Host has closed, however, The Midnight Dreary Festival, a collection of radio drama readings, begins on October 27th. For more information visit https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/midnight-dreary/.