Google Glass, a computer that looks like eyewear, is just one of the technologies that causes problems for the plays' characters.
Selfies aren't just harmless fun anymore. They've even gotten President Obama in trouble recently, after Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz snapped a photo of himself with the world leader and shared it online for what turned out to be a Samsung promotion. Broom Street Theater explores similarly troubling intersections of virtual and actual reality through the lens of Google Glass in a collection of comedy sketches titled Glasshole! (through May 17).
Though these short plays by Eric Holz are meant to be funny, they tackle serious issues such as privacy violations and fear of change. A smartphone being used as an alarm clock causes trouble at the start of the production, when couple Ashley (Sarah Beth Hahner) and Jeff (Brent West) hit the snooze button a few too many times. Ashley's lipstick gets smeared across her face as she rushes out of the house, late for a presentation. She soon runs into Todd, a jerk equipped with Glass, a wearable computer that looks like eyeglasses. He shares a video of her frazzled state with his social network for laughs.
From there a series of vignettes show Glass from different vantage points. We observe an Q&A session at the first press conference about the new technology, as well as its place in a museum of the future. At another point, a political blogger (Donovan Moen) and a foodie (Clarice Lafayette) participate in a boxing match of sorts on the web. Before long, the contestants, and even the ref, are hunched over their phones, staring at the screens in an all-too-familiar trance. It's a sharp, clever sequence that stands out.
Throughout the production, tech produces negative consequences. Alarms and voice commands fail, and even the Glass PR person at the press conference can't suggest a use for the glasses other than pornography or voyeurism.
Glasshole! culminates with a drunken homeless man preaching that barcodes are the mark of the beast. As he shares his beliefs about the end of the world, passersby turn into zombies with QR codes for heads. The audience is invited to scan the codes with their smartphones. This endeavor didn't go off without a hitch on opening night, but the audience did get to witness a zombie dance to the Village People song "YMCA."
You probably don't see much of it yet, but Glass will inevitably spread around Madison. Though it's easy to hold new technologies at arm's length and blame them for society's ills, it's important to remember that things like the selfie wouldn't exist without a self, a person making a decision to post a goofy or obnoxious self-portrait online.
Glasshole!, as clever as it is at times, has already made up its mind about who to blame when Glass spirals out of control.