Nicolle Bradford as Caroline and Ryan King as Thornbury in Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart. Photo by Rick Ngoc Ho.
BOTTOM LINE: A glimpse into a virtual New York inhabited by suicides, where one woman still believes in her chance to find love.
Post-apocalyptic New York isn't all that different from the New York in existence today: rife with good coffee houses offering gluten-free pastry options, attractive but unavailable men, and an overall unhealthy attachment to social networking sites. But it's that familiar, naive hope of love that resonates most in sci-fi drama Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart now playing at HERE Arts Center.
Lally Katz's new play depicts Aussie Caroline's journey to MySpace New York and back home again, both as narrator and main character. Though she is still living, she explains that New York is now only peopled with suicides and rubble, but has been rebuilt through the social networking site MySpace and exists much as it did previously. That is, except for the fact that the majority of residents are dead and the sense of reality is a mere façade. Some living beings inhabit MySpace New York, too, attempting to recreate the relationships they had with the suicides during their lives. Called Avalanche Dwellers, the living are looked upon with disdain by the suicides who want nothing to do with them.
But no matter. Bored, mortal Caroline leaps at the opportunity to visit after being invited to her friend Japan's wedding that's to be held in MySpace New York. Sure, Japan is a dead, but that doesn't stop her from happily marrying a fellow suicide. Caroline is instantly taken with Best Man, Thornbury, a handsome suicide who just happens to share his name with her hometown. Even after being reminded of the distaste for Avalanche Dwellers the suicides have, Caroline remains in MySpace New York, determined to be the exception to the rule. She is not the only one who loves Thornbury enough to become an Avalanche Dweller, however. His parents have similarly holed up in MySpace New York, desperate to keep Thornbury from becoming a mere memory. Despite her attempts to prove herself worthy of Thornbury's affection, his parents neither approve of nor encourage Caroline's hopeless plight.
Katz's play touches on the disturbing reality of pervasive online personas and the off-putting (and eerily all too often) occurrence of those internet personas living on, unchecked, after their real-life counterpart no longer exists. But the uncomfortable glare of online reality and that alter-ego, über-self taking on a life of its own is more the stuff of contemporary horror than stirring drama.
The real moments of poignancy come from Caroline's purest acts of desperation. Above and beyond the paranormal, techno-fied world being portrayed, Caroline's overwhelming, consuming, desperate desire to be with Thornbury is heartbreaking and real. The audience is forced to become the eavesdropping party to the inevitably ill-fated relationship; those nosy neighbors whose collected experiences palpably desire to instruct and inform, but can't.
But, Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart has equal parts moving and mundane moments. While Caroline's quest for romance is believably crushing, the universe of this sci-fi tale is too brusquely glossed over, with too many unclear and scattered rules. The risk for MySpace New York crashing is touted very early on in the play, though how this actually affects the suicides is unclear until much later, and how it affects the living is never fully revealed. Katz's nebulous world betwixt and between dead and alive and ether and reality is fascinating to imagine, though too undeveloped to hold up under the weight of its desired drama.
(Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart plays at HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue (entrance on Dominick), through December 21, 2010. Performances are Tuesdays at 8:30PM, Wednesdays at 8:30PM, Thursdays at 8:30PM, Fridays at 8:30PM, Saturdays at 8:30PM and Sundays at 4PM. Tickets are $25 and are available at here.org or by calling 212.352.3101.)