Diespace at the Dutch Festival | Program Notes

Diespace at the Dutch Festival

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This funny, satirical show by Dutch multimedia performance troupe PIPS:lab sends up social media using slick digital technology. But much of the cleverness of this U.S. premiere resides in the format, which suggests a cheesy 1970s TV game show, complete with theme music and audience participation.

The premise is that the performers are entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on Western nations’ aging population by creating a Facebook-like site specifically for use by the deceased. They do it by “digitizing your soul.”

Audience members are enlisted to do everything from writing their names in the air with handout LED flashlights – the writing registers on a projection screen – to, in the case of one lucky visitor, actually undergoing the soul-digitizing process.

The feel is nearly carnivalesque: The host is a tall, thin fellow folded into a motorized wheelchair who careens madly about the stage, and two of the other performers are young fellows in comical old-lady drag.

Somehow, this all never feels as over-the-top as you’d imagine. I think it’s because the performers – Keez Duijves, Stije Hallema, Yorrick Heerkens, Daan van West and Thijs de Wit and Sebastiaan Kox – just spin out their smart, simple premise over the course of the hour, never really forcing any message. They don’t have to: Their mockery of the commercialization of cyberspace and our desire to live forever is inherent in that very premise.

Except for a brief doldrums about 45 minutes in – some hijinks likely inserted to mask video-editing necessary for the show’s finale – this is a good-humored but pointed addition to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Distinctively Dutch Festival. The show was staged in the capacious, versatile space at 805-807 Liberty Ave., Downtown. There is one more performance, at 8 p.m. Saturday night. See www.pgharts.org.

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