Super Vision

Image courtesy SF Chronicle

Too much technology, not enough story. That about sums up my feelings about "Super Vision," the latest production from acclaimed New York theater outfit Builders Association that played last weekend at the Yerba Buena Center For The Arts. But, the show is well worth a visit simply for the sets and visuals which constitute a seamless blend of computer graphics, virtual backdrops and actors, live video teleconferencing and compositing and a pulsating soundtrack.

The Total Information Awareness Program is an infamous initiative of the Bush/Cheney government which purports to gather and correlate every single possible electronic and surveillance data point on every citizen. "Super Vision" envisions a world where this program is reality, not merely an eye in the sky scheme of the current administration. Moreover, the organization that undertakes this huge data mining task in "Super Vision" is a private concern, again a nod to our current world where corporations routinely collect and share huge amounts of information on citizens.

"Super Vision" starts off with a bang. In an opening monologue, a company spokesperson walks onstage to provide a little spiel. She calls out some members in the audience for that night by name, then lists their residential zipcodes and the preferred activities of the "average" resident in that area. It is a chilling reminder of the datasphere that encircles, observes, and records our minutest actions. The subsequent action jumps back and forth between three storylines: a couple in Seattle, an Ugandan Muslim of Indian origin attempting to pass through various passport checkpoints in the US, and a NYC based Sri Lankan woman teleconferencing with her grandmother in Columbo.

Unfortunately, none of the tales are particularly engaging. The sound, hypnotic at first, interferes noticeably with the words from the Seattle couple, making it difficult to follow their actions. Consequently, their climactic moment falls flat. The interrogation techniques used at the passport checkpoints hit really close to home but becomes repetitive after a while. The back and forth between the woman in NYC and her grandmother works best, yet, does not have a resolution either. None of the tales overlap or appear connected, making it difficult to understand the overall themes being presented, apart from the obvious Orwellian implications.

However, none of this should take away from the sensory experience offered up by "Super Vision." The set within a set concept, the use of rear and front projection screens, often simultaneously, the richness of the images floating across, the effective use of virtual actors - all of this add up to an engrossing evening. This is a group to watch. Hopefully, they'll have a killer storyline to go with the visuals next time.

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- August 21, 2006 6:34 PM // Review , Theater