In a time of uncertainty, theatre artists have spent the past several months creating work that speaks to our times, simply through the format with which the theatre is delivered. Ingenuity has led us to telling stories in unforeseen circumstances, stories about immediate issues, such as fascism, connection, and sorrow.
Director and playwright Jacob Juntunen has brought all these subjects to the forefront in Contraband Theatre’s virtual production of “18 Months After November.” Presented online in a series of scenes made up of scattered Facetime calls and urgent conference call negotiations, the world of the production is not so far from our own. America is divided along political lines, as in our reality; only here, Juntunen has taken the recent fascist turns within our Congress and presidency, and spun them to terrifying conclusions. Thus, eighteen months after the presidential election, California has seceded from the Union, and liberal Emma (E.K. Doolin) is struggling to survive in Missouri, plotting with loved ones Anne (Stephanie Stroud) and Jen (Deanna Lee) to escape to California.
But driving across country now means facing blocks at various borders, fending off unwanted advances from those she stays with (Jennifer Remke and Minoru Jackson), or battling a bureaucrat (Peter Moore) who demands she give up her most vital supplies before crossing into into his territory. Academics and those in the LGBTQIA community are primary targets, but anyone is suspicious, even old friends you think you can trust.
A clever shift in the final minutes of the play completes the chilling warning of Juntunen’s script, and the intelligence of the recorded calls brings a full urgency to each step on Emma’s journey. Doolin carries her increasing fear and paranoia in steely reserve, and Moore can always be counted on to bring an untenable bargain out in his favor.
Editor Dustin Hageland creates a startling pace, cutting from scene to scene with precision, and letting the final moment land with clarity and crushing finality. Juntunen smartly suggests the space these characters inhabit off-line with a wide swat of backgrounds introducing the audience to an American on the verge of an apocalypse.
Theatre is always meant to speak to our current moment, and the warning of “18 Months After November” is meant for audiences now, if they will only listen, and choose a different path moving forward.
“18 Months After November” can be found for viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc5NB1XVjME
DICE RATING: d20 — “One Of The Best”
TEN WORD SUMMARY: The chilling aftermath of an election brings truth and clarity.
On a personal note, Sarah and Jacob Juntunen were colleagues at Ohio University, and are friends.