Through a circle of translucent screens, we glimpse a luxurious inner sanctum: the West. Five satin-clad figures, representing Europe and America, enjoy a bacchanal around a long table. These narcissistic aristocrats gorge themselves with Reddi-wip while obsessing over their pleasure, security, and self-image. “When did the rules turn around?” they wonder. “We are the ones behind bars!” Beyond the fence keeping them out, traumatized refugees in rags stalk the perimeter, hoping to enter. They share their stories of deliverance: how they ran from war and cataclysm, only to sleep in the wealthy world’s streets, hungry and terrified of police. Agents in yellow rain slickers mediate. Bears arrive on the scene to defend capitalist interests; video plays testimonials from people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria.
This global stage tapestry is Privatopia, a deeply ambitious but theatrically inert new work by Greek playwright Maria Efstathiadi. Cast members include real-life asylum seekers and actors from immigrant backgrounds, and they speak from experience when they narrate arduous journeys from Bangladesh, Colombia, and Pakistan. But under Handan Ozbilgin’s direction, Privatopia‘s many components fail to coalesce or gather dramatic force. The work invokes too many issues, imposing didactic elements that overwhelm subtler suggestions. Despite the best intentions, Privatopia offers a strong initial vision of a sick civilization, then aimlessly roams.
By Maria Efstathiadi
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center
31-10 Thomson Avenue, Queens