Amid the coronavirus pandemic, traditional theater seems like a thing of the past. The Women’s Theatre Festival’s experimental virtual production of Her, however, seems to cry out for a performance on a physical stage.
Her Hotel is an hour-long musical directed by Jessica Wu that explores the dream world of a Chinese American woman. The woman, “Her,” played by playwright Rebecca Lee Lerman, is comatose, struggling to break free from a maze-like hotel constructed by her mind. Throughout her journey, Lerman has to confront her dysfunctional romantic history, her awkward interactions with other women and her own insecurity.
The foundation of the play is the set — “Her Hotel” — a physical embodiment of Lerman’s mental and emotional state. Her struggle to escape her mind becomes a race to escape a nightmarish space. Without that representation of the mind, however, the drama of Lerman’s journey is lost.
Still, Lerman’s performance is sound. Her high, haunting voice makes it easy to see her as the “rock star with millions of fans” she imagines herself to be. Most of the music has a strong punk vibe that has the audience bopping along and helps them feel what Lerman is feeling. Some songs use techno tropes, creating an eerie, oppressive atmosphere. Other songs, including some acoustic tunes, explore Lerman’s vulnerable side, abandoning her rock star alter-ego in favor of true self-reflection.
Her Hotel’s narrative is surreal and compelling, but its form leaves something to be desired. Abrupt transitions between full-frame musical interludes and video-conference-style dialogue leave the audience wondering what they’re supposed to be watching. There are also some issues introduced that the character never fully explores or resolves.
But in true WTF fashion, Her Hotel explores the power imbalance between men and women and even the competitive, petty nature of many relationships among women, as they attempt to build friendships while placing a premium on social norms. This particular piece also explores the disconnect between the physical and digital world, something that feels all too familiar to the world right now.
The Women’s Theatre Festival production of Her Hotel will be presented on July 25th. For more information or tickets visit https://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/.