×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Because He Can

Since computer bugs didn't actually cause global disaster in the year 2000, it's no surprise Arthur Kopit renamed his play "Y2K," a thriller about a couple whose identities are stolen by a blue-haired hacker. Last seen in Gotham in a 1999 production at the Lortel, the play is being remounted under its new title, "Because He Can."

With:
Astrakhan - Karl Gregory Orin Slake - John Henry Cox Dennis MacAlvane - Daryl Boling Joseph - Ronald Guttman Joanne - Ylfa Edelstein

Since computer bugs didn’t actually cause global disaster in the year 2000, it’s no surprise Arthur Kopit renamed his play “Y2K,” a thriller about a couple whose identities are stolen by a blue-haired hacker. Last seen in Gotham in a 1999 production at the Lortel, the play is being remounted under its new title, “Because He Can.” And, yes, that’s the answer to the question, “Why, oh why, would this nasty punk hurt a perfectly harmless pair of wealthy white people?”

From its industrial-rock sound design to the “edgy” leather trench coat worn by Astrakhan (Karl Gregory) — the cyber stalker who was once a student of elite editor-professor Joseph (Ronald Guttman) — “Because He Can” is designed to demonize both computers and the young people who use them to ruin lives.

In his effort to scare the upper and middle classes, Kopit drinks from the same schlocky well as such technophobic pics as “Firewall” and “The Net.” Once again, we meet a clueless couple who are shocked (shocked!) that their money exists only in bank computers and so can disappear. Once again, we run down the checklist of modern horrors, as Joseph and wife Joanne (Ylfa Edelstein) get framed for owning child porn and having lurid group sex around the globe.

Of course the photos of these indiscretions are very convincing, even though they were doctored by Astrakhan. And, naturally, there are two anonymous government agents — you know, the ones in dark suits who start out friendly but then get menacing — who ask Joseph threatening questions about the life he hasn’t really lived.

The point is that reality has become unstable in our times. We’ve ceded so much power to machines that they define our identities more than we do. Successful people have become overly comfortable with … well, who doesn’t know how this story goes?

Kopit’s arguments already felt dated in 1999 — fear of computers has been inspiring artists since at least the first “Terminator.” And now that the topic of identity theft is so familiar that banks run jokey commercials about it, his play is even mustier. It is no longer interesting simply to point out that hackers can steal our lives. And it’s naive to suggest that the agents of identity theft are scary teens in ripped jeans. Experience has shown the crooks are often the very citizens Kopit tries to present as innocent victims of a world gone mad.

Director Nicholas Cotz’s staging of these cliches is so feverish it borders on camp. For instance, he lets Gregory play Astrakhan as a cackling Bond villain. Thesp repeatedly glares at the audience after mentioning how easy it is to crack computer codes. Or else he weaves silently between Edelstein and Guttman, face smug as he watches them without being seen.

And if that’s too subtle, set designer David Esler covers the walls with gray zeros and ones (the binary language of computers) and then paints a neon green spider web on top of them.

Ah, yes. The World Wide Web is an actual web that ensnares us all. Got it. In fact, we all get it. And have gotten it for years.

Popular on Variety

Because He Can

Greenwich Street Theater; 74 seats; $20 top

Production: A Personal Space Theatrics presentation of a play in one act by Arthur Kopit. Directed by Nicholas Cotz.

Creative: Set, David Esler; costumes, Kathleen Leary; lighting, Michael Riotto; sound, Chris Rummel; props, Casey Smith; production stage manager, Ryan Parow. Opened June 9, 2006. Reviewed June 14. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

Cast: Astrakhan - Karl Gregory Orin Slake - John Henry Cox Dennis MacAlvane - Daryl Boling Joseph - Ronald Guttman Joanne - Ylfa Edelstein

More Legit

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content