Review: Back at RAVE Theater Festival by MAX BERRY
If given the chance to change your past at the cost of those you love, would you do it? This is one of the questions proposed in Matt Webster’s new play “Back.” Set in a world very close to our own and now armed with the ability to kill yourself in one reality in order to travel back in time ten years and change events in a different reality, two lifelong friends, Derek and Leah struggle to make sense of the world with this new technology, watching friend after friend, relative after relative go back, they struggle to understand what going back would mean for themselves and what it would mean for each other.
One of the things about “Back” that made it as strong as it was, was that while it existed in a world of science fiction and of people ending their lives in one timeline to return in another ten years prior, the focus is on the two main characters and their relationship over the course of a decade. Webster, did not spend too much time trying to flesh out this new complicated world and opted to show it to us bit by bit through these people who were living in it. This allowed for the audience to never quite know everything but know enough to understand the importance of what was taking place. It gave us a mystery. Yet, at the same time, giving us this world in pieces and fleshing it out through the two main characters, made the macro world they lived in feel more real than a simple narration would have achieved.
The relationship between the two actors, Terra Mackintosh as Leah and Webster himself as Derek, was phenomenal. Every second you could feel their atoms stretching out to touch each other. This of course was achieved in a team effort between the brilliant writing and captivating acting. Their relationship was not idealized nor was it completely toxic. This gave it that touch of reality that was so essential in this world of time travel and second chances. There were times where I was angry at one or both of them and there were times where I held my breath, hoping that there was some way they could mend the damage that has been done by each other and by the world.
Another shout out needs to be given to the lighting design of “Back”. The set is simple enough, just a square that the actors create every location inside. Though, the rim of the square is surrounded by these futuristic lights that would change color and flash, often to a blinding degree. This not only kept with the futuristic feel but gave the whole play a deeper sense of dread as we moved from one scene to the other and closer to the truth. There were also several moments where no light was used or the light simply came from the flashlight on a cell phone. These effects were very striking and emphasized the closeness between the two characters wonderfully.
The ideas proposed in “Back” are fascinating and frighteningly plausible. This play has the advantage of dealing with a moral and metaphysical dilemma that doesn’t currently exist in our world and therefore can be truly analyzed from all angles with no biases. Every argument of this idea is explored in very subtle and real ways. Does it matter if the people you meet when you go back are different versions of the ones you knew? What about those you leave behind? Is it just suicide? Nothing has an easy answer and the audience is left wondering if given the opportunity to go back…would they?
“Back” was written by Matt Webster and directed by David Perlow.
It featured: Terra Mackintoshvand Matt Webster
With Lighting Design by Greg Solomon
Scenic Design by Tim McMath
And Sound Design by Andrew Fox
It was presented as a part of the RAVE Theater Festival at Teatro Sea and Teatro Latea Theaters (107 Suffolk St. New York NY 10002) and runs August 9-25th