Before Your Very Eyes

I walked into the theatre and saw a handful of children (ranging in age from about 10 to about 15, I think) playing behind a see-through partition. Throughout the pre-show, they played various games in what looks like a typical rec room. (There are giant screens on both sides of the stage.) I wondered if I was going to be watching children play for the duration of the show, and, if so, what that would amount to as a theatrical experience.

I did watch them play, but there was more to it than that. A voice (Rigley Riley) speaks to and prompts the children, and for the next 70 minutes, we watch as the children grow up, before our very eyes. They are playing dress up, going through different stages of life. In effect, the Gob Squad (the theatrical team that created the show; Bridget Kelso Anthony is the performance coach) presented a meditation on life and death, and reflected our lives back to us. (The mirrored back wall didn't hurt.)

The live action on stage is interspersed with pre-recorded video of the children talking about their dreams and hopes, and asking their "older" selves if they still dream and hope about the same things; if they are still afraid of the same things; if they've achieved their goals. Seeing the wonder in the children's eyes met with a loss of innocence, teen angst, adult cynicism, older adult resignation... It's truly affecting.

We are reminded to keep our childlike sense of wonder, to continue to be curious about the world. We are also reminded, in this day and age in which children are over-programmed and are expected to be so mature at such young ages, to just let kids be kids. But that thought also made me wonder if having Before Your Very Eyes performed by children was somewhat exploitative and anathema to the point of the show. I'm going to give Gob Squad the benefit of the doubt, and trust that they are taking care to let the children be children throughout the process of creating this show, which began in November 2013. I'm also going to try to rediscovery my curiosity and sense of wonder, seeing all that is before my very eyes.

(There are two teams of children who perform Before Your Very Eyes. I saw Team 1: Charlotte Beede, Rose Bell-McKinley, Meghan Chang, Jeanu Jacobs, Simone Mindolovich, Elijah Pluchino, and Miles Sherr-Garcia.)

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