Theater review: For Better - love in the age of technology

Saturday, July 22, 2017

For Better
By Eric Coble
Directed by David Bailey
The Phoenix Theatre
July 21 - 30, 2017

Review by Doug Gochanour

We have come a long way in communication technology since Maxwell Smart made phone calls using his shoe. The latest is a wearable device, a “ring” worn on the index finger, which allows bone conduction phone communication when that finger is held into the ear. This gives new meaning to a phrase like ring tones.

When paired with apps like Seri, Google, GPS and more, the ring finger phone brings the current information age right into your head. Before you just “thumb your nose” at a finger to your ear, you might give some thought to how this may improve your life. How may it complicate your life and your relationships, as well?

Technology has made it easier to keep in touch, but that is no substitute for real touch, as in human contact. This seems especially true if you are married or if you are in a committed relationship.

Eric Coble has conjured up this clever farce, humorously examining our increasing dependence on digital gadgetry. You may find it a bit technologically dated. Unless re-written occasionally, the play may not keep up with humor in new tech devices.

For Better is a romantic comedy, which explores the nature of relationship complications accompanying the digital age.

Cristin Fenzel captures our attention as Karen, a young woman who is planning to get married very soon, though she is dealing with a long-distance relationship. Karen has only met Max a couple of times, but has a great deal of contact via phone, messenger, and email. 
Max buys an engagement ring online and sends it to Karen by FedEx. Their individual work situations will have them located in different places most of the time. Can they find enough romantic contact to satisfy each of them?

Karen’s sister Francine (Angela Snyder) met her husband Michael (Morgan Peeler) through an online dating site. Those sites offer a kind of digital version of natural selection, allowing clients to create an online representation of the personal image they wish to present. A computer sifts through the profiles of every client in the system and offers up a match.

Karen’s Father (Jeffrey Strom) delights us with hilarious one-liners. He expresses the fear and frustration many feel in dealing with new technology. He also sends special email with touching sentimental reminders of his love for his daughters. It is a very noteworthy performance.

Further amusement comes from observing Lizzie (Cassandra Carskadon), as she runs the gamut of hotness and coolness. Her exchanges with Michael – a former flame – fall into the category of phone sex. 

It also leads Michael to demonstrate the potential pitfall of switching between conversations with two people on different lines. Say the wrong thing and big trouble will ensue.

Poor Stuart (Tim Takechi) travels the globe as a “can you hear me now” character. He has difficulty communicating his feelings, with technology or not. In the end he might benefit from Lizzie setting him into a tizzy.

But in our constantly connected world, with email, texts, Skype and camera phones, do a modern bride and groom need to be in the same country to honeymoon together?

“Technological singularity” poses that the invention of artificial super-intelligence will trigger explosive technological growth, and bring incomprehensible accelerating changes to human civilization. Perhaps as we get smarter, we will see the humor of it all much more quickly.

Fortunately for us, The Phoenix Theatre emphasizes laughter over drama in all its play selections and presentations. Come enjoy For Better, and be prepared to laugh a lot and think a bit, as well.

The Phoenix Theatre is located in Firdale Village, 9673 Firdale Ave, Edmonds 98020.


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