Untapped was invited to check out Electra in a One-Piece, the inaugural production of theater group, Good Company, before the show’s opening night. The play is a hilarious romp, a modern-day adaptation of the Greek tragedy Electra but with a twist: what if you filmed your mother murdering your father and uploaded the video to YouTube? The family in Electra (plus some quirky friends), become reality stars over night, each trying to outdo the other. The play captures the complexities of today’s social networking culture, of identities forged and forsaken in hours–culminating in perhaps a statement about society’s collective virtual, spiritual and physical death. New York Magazine calls it “an impressive debut from a monstrous new talent.” Writer Amanda Chatel says Electra is “funny and smart… and the dialogue is brilliant.”
Teenage daughter Elle has imaginary friends Jude Law, Justin Timberlake and Zack Efron who advise and goad her into become putting her father’s murder online:
Elle begins to acutely feel the online community abandon her as they become more interested in her mother and brother, who have also taken to YouTube. Here she is about to throw her MacBook into the pool (real water!):
Equally interesting is that the Wild Project theater space, on 3rd Street and Avenue B, used to be a bottling facility! 1948 certificate of occupancy states that the first floor was for the “storage and bottling of beverages for distribution, and storage of five (5) motor vehicles, accessory use to the commercial use on premises.” The second floor was for offices. In 2003, when it was converted into a theater. The building is green, with solar panels on a fantastic roof deck and other green building initiatives. The front room is used as a gallery.
I caught up with director David Ruttura, who happens to be a friend form high school out in Setauket, Long Island:
What inspired you to start your own theater company? What’s the concept behind it?
My friend Isaac Oliver (who wrote the play) and I have been kicking around projects for a while. There was always this sense that if we waited long enough, someone would come and do everything for us – we would just have to write and direct. There was some truth in that, and we had some luck here and there getting picked up by producers. What we learned however, as time and time again those planned productions would, for whatever reason, fall a part, is that it’s hard to find a producer who can actually produce at this level – it’s really hard to raise the money for a team of nobodies. So literally one day, he and I were complaining about it and I finally said “Fuck it. Let’s start our own theater company and do it ourselves. We feel like people should see this, let’s raise the money and produce Electra on our own terms.” And with that, Good Company was born. The concept behind Good Company is relatively simple – we’re dedicated to telling stories that engage, enlighten and above all else, entertain. We have a real focus on new work that is both challenging and accessible to an audience. I think Electra is a good example of that. We also feel strongly about gathering talented people and teaming them up together. Producing a play is more about talent scouting than you’d expect, and the team we’ve been able to assemble, I would argue, could rival any team working out there – it’s A-list across the board from the cast to the designers to our stage management team. We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish on a limited budget.
David (left) coaching the actors:
Expect to feel in good hands. That’s one of the goals of Good Company — we want the audience to feel like they’re entering into something that has been thought through and intended to provoke them in a way that is palpable and useful.Electra in a One-Piece is built to engage. It’s a challenging piece both technically and for an audience, but in all the right ways. It’s at one moment hilarious, and then on a dime, very dark. It’s a bit of a roller-coaster, and that’s what I love about it. I think that’s also what audiences are responding to and are most excited about. It’s a very shrewd exploration of the overnight celebrity — the YouTube celebrity or the reality star who is only famous because they’ve done something shocking, not because of a talent or something sustainable. It explores our society’s hunger to push these people to go even further, do something crazier. We all have a really powerful tool on the internet — we can influence people anonymously through comments and blogs etc. We now have the power to determine who’s famous and why and we can collectively insist that someone we don’t know at all do something we want them to do. Electra explores the dangers associated with this new power.
Backstage and during rehearsal:
For me personally, the city is my greatest inspiration. What does the city mean to you?
The energy in New York is addictive. Because of my work as an Associate Director on larger productions, I travel a lot to a lot of major cities. There are lots of times when I feel like I want to get out of New York – then when I do, very shortly after, I want nothing more than to come back. New York is a hub for pretty much any industry. It’s a city of go-getters, of thoughtful and gifted people trying to make things better. There are very few lazy people in this city – it doesn’t allow for it. That’s what I love. It inspires and challenges me to be better than I thought I could be.
Wild Project 195 East 3rd Street