The text of CAN I HELP YOU? is a video transcript inspired by a medical reality TV show. The action of the video transcript takes place in a hospital's Trauma unit, and is transferred to the stage, complete with rewinds, fast-forwards and jump cuts. Multiple narratives compete for the audience's attention: doctors formulate pat speculations about the shockingly banal death of a heart attack victim; a videographer gets annoyed by bad lighting and becomes distracted from a critical event; exhausted transcribers grow repulsed by the gore of the Trauma Room and take a break while the tape in the player is still running, and an ancient Texas farmer tells the story of his recent tractor accident and his multiple brushes with death, but only because he thinks no one is listening.
Intermittently, doctors and nurses confront a single, unruly patient, Lisa Campbell. As new "footage" of Lisa is revealed, it becomes evident that there is much more to Lisa's story than hospital personnel or the production crew will see, and that the audience may come to understand more about the horrific events that brought Lisa to the ER than she does.
The real story that patients, personnel, videographers and transcribers miss is available only to the audience and must be culled from the action that falls outside the frame of the transcript. Some spectators may see it; others will not. They are given a wide breadth of material from which to glean their own narrative vision—scenes are depicted in miniature diorama, "surgery" is performed onstage using meat, the brutality of Trauma protocol is emulated with the abrupt tonal changes of live action and high-volume video.
Viewers are ultimately left to examine not only their own logical processes and biases, but the bargain we initiate when we allow someone to form our vision of reality for us.
"The production features sets, costumes, video and lighting that are designed through a collaborative process by the company." Composer Kamala Sankaram has worked with Exploding Moment to create a multi-layered musical soundscape of medical and video sounds for "Can I Help You?"
Cast: Sharla Meese, Katherine Sully, Katherine Wessling
CAN I HELP YOU? plays the following regular schedule through Saturday, July 26:
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
*There is no performance on Wednesday, July 23, 2008*
Theater: Bushwick Starr
Address: 207 Starr Street between Irving + W
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