Cyber Serenade, Stage Left Theatre. As the last cell-phone-less person on earth, I sympathize with the basic observation behind Mia McCullough’s entertaining comedy: that marvels like cell phones and E-mail distort our closest relationships even as they pretend to enhance them. Sympathize so much, in fact, that I wish she’d taken it further. McCullough lets everybody off too easy.
The show tracks the alienating power of the new technology as it makes its devastating way through the Arbunkles–papa Dan, mama Ellen, and teenage daughter Ari. Dan is an executive so attached to his cell phone that he actually becomes attached to it. When he isn’t doing business with the gizmo, he uses it to pursue a long-distance romance. His preoccupation sends lonely Ellen into the arms of the Internet, where she carries on an increasingly serious flirtation with a guy she meets in a chat room. The Luddite of the family, Ari looks on with alarm.
McCullough throws a trickster into the mix–a character called the Void, who lives in the electronic ether and sees to it that our connections are never as secure as we hope. He’s a great idea, but McCullough never permits him the savagery of a Puck. It’s a weakness indicative of the whole play: the author seems to fear the consequences of her own constructs–seems to worry that anything less than the chirpiest ending will ruin the mood, when the truth is, her pulled punches do just that.