Tamarie Cooper in a promotional picture for “Tamarie Cooper’s 2020: Quarantine Version!”

Photograph: Catastrophic Theatre

“Tamarie Cooper’s 2020: Quarantine Version!” is a brand new webseries from the Catastrophic Theatre that falls squarely proper in the course of beginner {and professional}. It has the home made high quality of a stitched-together Zoom undertaking, the considerate effort of seasoned performers and each bit the awkward attraction of native theater. A substitute for the theater’s annual summer season musical, “The Tamarie Cooper Present,” this sequence captures the Tamarie Cooper custom by way of a string of authentic satirical songs and quick sketches.

I began the primary half-hour with my full consideration, my laptop computer in full-screen mode positioned on one other laptop computer on prime of my kitchen desk. However quickly I moved the laptop computer into the kitchen, nonetheless keenly watching whereas I washed just a few dishes and wiped off bits of final evening’s barbacoa on the countertop. This isn’t to say “2020” doesn’t maintain your consideration, however reasonably that it’s a light-weight journey, akin to a zany Zoom Joyful Hour. As a result of the Catastrophic Theatre has no management over the tactic or method of consumption, its artwork takes on a extra relaxed, versatile high quality.

What does it imply that you may now watch a bit of “theater” whereas doing dishes? Consuming theater throughout the pandemic, the place artist and viewers are each within the home atmosphere, means the “theatricality” of the expertise is eliminated.

The Catastrophic Theatre wittily performs with this example. They acknowledge theaters are a bit helpless proper now. They admit, by means of self-effacing jokes, that it’s fairly ridiculous to fret about artwork when folks want cash, healthcare and systemic police reform, not jokes. (Cooper compares her web-show to a soldier bringing a whoopie cushion to the entrance traces).

In an introduction with actor Kyle Sturdivant, Cooper asks her co-host what folks want greater than ever proper now. “Face masks? A systemic finish to racism? ICU beds? Police reform?” Sturdivant replies. “No! Artwork,” Cooper says, lifting palms up and out in a self-congratulatory flourish.

The self-aware, self-parodying humor makes “2020” a shocking delight. Practically all of the sketches, delivered in quick-fire method, poke enjoyable on the pitiful state of affairs of performers and audiences being trapped of their homes. When the solid video-dials in, Sturdivant finds, to his horror, that everybody is singing in costume. He ends the musical raucous with a yelp. “Everyone cease musical theater-ring!” And so the sequence continues on this means, continuously modifying and critiquing itself. The present turns into an expertise of watching theater artists battle to discover a voice in an online-only world.

In a single music, Catastrophic members sing about how they’re going loopy being dwelling all day. In one other musical quantity, by Joe Folladori, 4 performers play an authentic music by way of videoconference, solely to have the music foiled by technical difficulties.

And so “2020” finds a little bit of honesty in its voice. It lays naked the unhappy state everyone seems to be in proper now, trapped at dwelling with out the power to see and collaborate with different people. If the Catastrophic had staged a severe present, it may need risked the out-of-touch narcissism of Gal Gadot’s “Think about” video. Gadot’s intention was to ask fellow celebrities to encourage a troubled America by singing a music into their telephones and add it to Instagram. What was meant to be an act of therapeutic by means of artwork got here throughout as a determined cry for relevance, imbued with an optimism that reeked of privilege.

The act of singing for somebody to “save” them borders on insensitivity. However the issue is that many artists, particularly these within the theater world, do assume artwork can heal minds and save souls. They wouldn’t have turn into artists in the event that they thought in any other case. Insignificance, extra so than social distancing, is theater’s primary risk now.

“2020” acknowledges that “theater issues” is just too out-of-touch a stance to take proper now, and takes the route of self-critique in an effort to mirror the state of theater. It was the very best, and maybe solely means, to compete with the whole lot else that we are able to watch on our telephone or laptop computer — it gives a uncooked have a look at native performers combating their lives. Pictures of the Catastrophic solid of their properties jogged my memory that just about everyone seems to be in the identical determined state of affairs. In that means, the present made pandemic really feel extra like a unifying expertise.

Which is to say that though “2020” didn’t heal me, and even maintain my full consideration throughout its half-hour, it did provide me one thing an HBO or Netflix present by no means may give me — it made me really feel just a bit bit much less alone.


  • Wei-Huan Chen

    Wei-Huan Chen is theater critic and humanities/tradition author for the Houston Chronicle. He splits his time between critiquing performing arts and reporting on town’s myriad cultures and phenomena. His topics embody theater, movie, music and inclusion/illustration within the arts.

    Earlier than arriving on the Chronicle in 2016, he labored for the Indianapolis Star, the Lafayette Journal & Courier, the Needham Occasions and the Boston Phoenix. Chen is a 2016 Nationwide Critics Institute Fellow on the Eugene O’Neill Theater Heart. He has received many awards for his writing on the humanities, together with First place from the Texas Related Press Media Editors for Criticism.

    One of many few full-time Asian-American arts critics at the moment working at a big metro day by day, Chen writes and speaks incessantly about variety and criticism. He has spoken on the subject at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, the Asian American Journalists Affiliation Nationwide Conference, New York Metropolis’s BroadwayCon, the Theatre Communications Group Nationwide Convention and for American Theatre Journal’s podcast, “Offscript.”

    Chen as soon as auditioned for “The Bachelorette” and wrote about it. He didn’t obtain a callback.

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