“Just think of two of my favorite sci-fi movies,” says Adams. “[Stanley] Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” set the pattern for the films that followed, but the Russian version of “Solaris” suggested another path, an effort to shift the focus from technology to relationships, more like films such as “Scenes from a Marriage,” “A Woman Under the Influence,” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Cinema didn’t follow the “Solaris” model, but theater did. best plays about the future are like ‘A Doll House.’ They look at social issues through the lens of a relationship. Mona’s play does that.
In “Private,” Pirnot has created a world very much like ours, except surveillance has become so ubiquitous that privacy is a commodity that can be bought or bargained for in negotiations with employers, spouses, and/or Big Businesses. Tech. The relationship Pirnot examines is between Corbin (Eric Berryman), a frustrated engineer, and Georgia (Temídayo Amay), a frustrated artist. When Corbin lands his dream job, Georgia can quit her day job and focus on music. What Corbin didn’t tell her was that he waived all rights to the couple’s privacy as a condition of employment.
“The key to directing a play like this is to treat all aspects of the future as given,” says Adams. “You have to comb the room for clues about the new world, and then you normalize them. Things that are exceptional to the audience should seem normal to the cast. What the characters see as new and what they see as assumed tell us about the world in which they live. And the script of this play is frighteningly close to the way we live now.
One of the play’s main characters, Raina, never appears on stage. She’s the face of Steve Jobs/Elon Musk, startup entrepreneurial superstar, tech guru as rock star. She justifies her request for total surveillance by explaining how a former engineer sold company secrets to a competitor.
“Raina has power in the room because we never see her,” Adams says. “We are dazzled by the capitalist innovator. It’s very seductive to be complimented by such a person, to be sought out and hired by such a person. It makes us wonder what we could be giving up for a great opportunity. But there’s a constant slippage in what we’re supposed to let go of, and it’s accelerating all the time. Maybe we can’t see it, but Mona can.
The influx of money Corbin’s new job provides does not relieve the stress in his relationship with Georgia; if anything, it increases it. He discovers his contract is more onerous than he thought, and Georgia suspects he’s lying about something.
“There is tension in a marriage when you feel something has changed under your feet in your home,” Adams notes. “And this play moves so fast that the characters, like the audience, are always trying to catch up with what’s going on. One of the reasons Georgia is in love with Corbin is that he is reliable, unlike other people in her past. And when he’s not, it makes her wonder what’s wrong.
Both Adams and Pirnot are based in New York City, where Adams specializes in directing new plays and Pirnot has won playwriting scholarships. For the past month, the two have been in Washington, attending rehearsals at Mosaic and collaborating every step of the way.
“I love having the writer in the room,” Adams says. “It’s pretty exciting when the cast and designer feedback affects the final rewrites. There’s no searching for clues about past productions; we have to make it all up ourselves.
Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. 202-399-7993 ext 2. mosaictheater.org.