Mr. Parker turns the necessary “evil” of Yondr into a dramaturgical good.
As much as analog purists would love to believe that productions force attendees to lockbox their cellphones out of some abstract fidelity to the sanctity of offline art, the real reason is usually practical: when an actor dares to drop trow in a live setting, Yondr ensures that only the eyeballs explicitly intended to observe the display in the room can do so. Whereas onscreen nudity can be composed (and fabricated) precisely, living flesh opens itself to unflattering angles. And maybe their bodies will look better at some performances than others, and shouldn’t artists control which members of the public can witness their privates?
(Also, from an even more practical — read: commercial — standpoint: if you want to gawk, buy a ticket).
But Mr. Parker transforms this necessity into dramaturgical resonance.
Minutes into the play, a dashing hunk of a man barges in full frontal. Given his relative youth compared to the lead character, who has just finished introducing the set-up to us, the nudity’s shock to the audience’s system — no one expects to see a swinging dick enter stage right out of nowhere! — reflects how this young paramour shocks the main character’s established system. His decades-long husband has recently passed away, and this is his first foray into the 2022 dating scene. After becoming accustomed to the same aging body, can you imagine what beholding a buck in his physical prime would feel like??
Well, you don’t need to imagine, because we experience for ourselves the complete depths of this ripped individual, who is (safe to say?) fitter than most of us seated slouches.
In the same way that seeing his manhood makes the audience feel the primary character’s experience for themselves, the production teaming up with Yondr similarly makes the audience feel one of the play’s reoccurring themes: the modern age’s addiction to cellphones. There are repeated conversations throughout about how our digitally connected world reshapes how we engage with, well, everything.
Pondering these discussions assumes a different tenor given the fact that Yondr disconnects audiences as soon as they walk into the theater. How many of us remain glued to our mobile devices from the moment we take our seats until the lights dim? And what do we immediately reach for when the lights come back up? Most probably, the lights of our phones!
But Yondr inhibits us from doing so. In so doing, much like the nudity, we feel the truth of the play’s subject for ourselves, as opposed to merely mulling it.