Let’s face it. Online theatrical performances have largely been a miss since the pandemic began.
Whether repackaged recordings from previous versions never intended for broadcast or fraught with technical difficulties that made them unwatchable, translating the live theatre experience to our computers, phones, and tablets has not been a reasonable facsimile.
That is until The Cultch took up the challenge with the quirky, sometimes hilarious and ultimately touching Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.
Much of that success comes on three fronts: the show itself, the cast/creative team, and an investment in the technical aspects of live streaming.
When co-creators Veda Hille, Bill Richardson and Amiel Gladstone created A Craigslist Cantata nearly a decade ago, it is doubtful they would have imagined it would one day be performed online.
But given its structure as a song cycle, it was already uniquely positioned to translate from stage to screen, with each song a self-contained story based on real-life Craigslist ads either verbatim or as a jumping-off point.
Several songs based on the classified sites’ “missed connections” category help create an immediacy, underscored by a physically distanced cast performing them.
There is also a uniquely satisfying meta aspect to a show dealing in online ads performed online.
The Cast & Creative Team
Director Amiel Gladstone has gathered a quintet of actors – Meaghan Chenosky, Josh Epstein Chirag Naik, Amanda Sum, and Andrew Wheeler – up to the show’s unique challenges.
Not only does its often quirky music and lyrics require precision and clarity, but with physical distancing requirements, each actor must also perform isolated from each other in individual performance pods.
With reactions as necessary as actions, this is not a simple task. Director Gladstone and the tech team (see more below) helps solve this problem with a mix of single and Brady Bunch-style shots. Amanda Testini also lends a hand by mirroring choreography across the video blocks.
The Technical Investment
While not entirely glitch-free as the technical team (Cameron Anderson, Cody Biles, Kaden O’Reilly, Kyra Soko & Chris Engleman) had to reset partway through Sunday’s performance, the overall experience was well beyond many other shows that have gone online since the start of the pandemic.
Given my circumstances, I could only watch A Craigslist Cantata in its final matinee performance, resulting in this postmortem review. I remain hopeful it will receive a remount so others can see what is possible in the realm of live digital theatre in what will likely continue to be the norm for some time to come.
A Craigslist Cantata not only had what I wanted but more importantly, it had what I needed. Its bittersweet finale had me aching for the day we can once again gather together IRL because we are all missing connection.
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata by Veda Hille, Bill Richardson & Amiel Gladstone. Directed by Amiel Gladstone. Presented by The Cultch. No further performances.