In almost every way imaginable, “Is Edward Snowden Single?” is not what it seems.
For starters, Kate Cortesi’s raucous comedy — which the Jungle Theater is world-premiering in a theatrical/video hybrid we need to invent a name for: Veater? Theadeo? Hopefully something less terrible? — has little to do with Snowden.
The two-person play is about the friendship of two young women, Mimi (Becca Hart) and April (Isabella Star LaBlanc), which is challenged by factors I probably shouldn’t give away. I can say it’s revealing that April, the more serious of the two, is intrigued by the ethics of whistleblower Snowden, whereas Mimi mostly thinks he’s hot. (“This whistle is not going to blow itself,” is the sort of pillow talk she imagines.)
Both characters are funny in distinct ways. The conceit of “Snowden” is that Mimi and April have essentially agreed to interrogate their relationship by turning it into a play where they bring to life about 20 people, most of whom are Mimi’s co-workers at a coffee shop. They even play each other and, at some points, reach out to viewers in an attempt to get us on their side.
Cortesi’s speedy, profane script is informed by the pop culture that Mimi and April consume, and by a youthful approach to romance, which is more important to these women than is suggested by the casual way they play it off. There’s some “Fleabag” in “Snowden,” in the characters’ awareness that they are performing for us and in the frank approach to sex and betrayal.
Cortesi has a sharp eye for the telling detail, even in characters who appear only briefly, such as a “Brooklyn soccer mom” who confesses about the emptiness of her pantry: “There is nothing in my house except oatmeal and nice mustard.”
The speed of the play may work against the production — there’s so much packed into 112 minutes that it approaches sensory overload — but a big part of the fun is watching Hart and LaBlanc throw everything they have at us in their quicksilver shifts (the two also acted together in the Jungle’s “The Wolves”).
Director Christina Baldwin makes clever use of technology that’s not available in theater, inventively employing split-screen and illustrations created by Hart, while maintaining the illusion that, like a play, “Snowden” is presented in one, unedited take. That underscores the dazzle of Hart zipping from daffy Mimi to that snobby soccer mom and a loving child, or LaBlanc whipping from sardonic April to a dopey bro to her friend at her most clueless. (Deadpan Eric Sharp, as the voice of Snowden, is also great fun.)
In a way, “Snowden” is about performing. Both Mimi and April are actors; it’s definitely significant that they once appeared together in “Othello,” a drama about friendship and integrity. And, whatever we want to call this theater/video mashup, it has something powerful to say about the extent to which all of us sometimes put on an act.
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