Hive-Mindfulness Meditation

Erdal & Dawes @ Firehall in hyperkinetic 'Hyperlink'

Roto-rooters at large in the 'pipes of the Internet.' Photo: Diane Smithers

A spectre is haunting just about the whole wide and earthly, objectively concrete world; the spectre of Virtuality.

It seeps into our love lives, our hate speech, our innermost reward circuitry, our memes and schemes and scams and gigs. Schoolmarms, parents and sober-sided pundits decry it; technocratic Übermenschen evangelize its brave new portents; despots weaponize it.

But for the Vancouver stand-up duo of TJ Dawes and Itai Erdal, it’s just fodder for a whirlwind round of cerebral skits, video montages and audience participation stunts. Director Rachel Peake stitches it all together into a 70-minute farrago underscored by the brilliant onstage improv of double-bassist Mark Haney.

It all starts out innocently enough, with Erdal polling the audience to build himself an online identity for a dating app. This shadow persona then gets recycled through the warrens of social media while Dawes offers us a musicological lecture – illustrated by a YouTube video and Haney’s Bach riffs – on the Art of the Fugue.

Meanwhile, though, the two performers ratchet themselves up to a kind of Fugue State of dissociative disorder. Dawe find himself lengthily “following,” in horrified fascination, the conspiracist rants of a Trumpoid troll. Erdal winds up karmically bound into the death-spiral of a seemingly innocuous AirBnB lodger. Both get lured off into the kinkier byways of porn, interspersed with “Cute Overloads” of kitten videos and other such binges of saccharine neotenia.

The show touches upon the seductive charm of online anonymity or heteronymity, the intoxication of merging oneself into a cyber-mob. But it treats these “serious” subjects with a light and gentle touch.

The gangly Dawe dons a rubber giraffe masque to gyrate seductively along with gaggles of teeny-bop pole dancers before reverting to his own, slightly pinched and priestly persona. Erdal, amply upholstered, admits to a fondness for Wreck Beach, where, as in Reddit, we can all get unblushingly naked together, be we ever so dumpy.   

It’s all mashed up at a dizzying pace that fairly reflects the gaudy, funhouse eclecticism of the Web. We hardly get a chance to recap where we’ve been or where we might be heading. Before you know it, you’ve burned up a whole 70 minutes and emerge blinking back into dull, sub-lunary IRL. Just like you would after a lost hour twiddling with your tablet.

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