McCray carries the torch of Capek into our technologically smothered era, transforming the concept of humanoid robots into the conceit of having a human play the Internet. He is ably aided by Sarah Krainin's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"–esque set, complete with a gossamer scrim in front of the actors on which are projected Adam Flemming's jerky black-and-white images of old newsreels, childhood bullies, and rapidly cascading numbers.
It's difficult not to speculate on how much of McCray's script and concept were in place when he began workshopping this piece and how much was developed in rehearsals with the performers. Rachel Appelbaum, Jenny Greer, Jeffrey Johnson, and Liam Springthorpe play all the doctors, scientists, Comcast customers, and other denizens of the Net, each actor courageously willing to enter McCray's stark vision and make it his or her own. Greer is especially wonderful as an East Indian Comcast phone rep desperately trying to moderate a customer's complaining blog with gushing customer-service rhetoric.
But the real chicken-or-egg question hovering over this production has to do with when Vonzell Carter came into the mix. Was it a fluke of casting? Or was this guy's genius as a physical performer in McCray's mind from the day he began to write? In the role of the Internet—beginning at its infancy, journeying through its stages of growth, and finally suffused with a burgeoning sense of superiority over the mortals who created it—Carter is mesmerizing. His every movement is riveting as his rubbery body twitches through the computer's evolutionary course of crashes and glitches, which bit by bit strengthen it enough to be able to gobble up the privacy and potentially endanger the security of us all.
Presented by Matthew McCray at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Av., L.A. April 6–29. Mon., Fri., and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. (Additional performance Thu., April 12, 8 p.m.) www.insidethechannel.com.