082608dignation.jpgAdam Koplan

With minimal props (a quill pen, a gas mask), rich sound design, and vivid video projection, Michael McQuilken's one man show, A Day in Dig Nation, sets out to be a dystopian exploration of our "media-drenched" post-modern phantasmagoria, as seen through the giant eyes of Rex, an isolated office drone kept complacent by video games and television. Then the apocalypse happens, and Rex survives in a bunker for 26 years until he finally hears a woman's voice calling for survivors over the ham radio. But she sounds kind of demanding, and rather than respond he goes back to working on his robot.

The show then lurches back to Rex's pre-bunker lifestyle, which doesn't differ much. In an overly long sequence, he plays the Starving Artist character in a "Warrior Within" video game (sort of Guitar Hero meets Myst), with the game's action projected on the screen behind him. There is a humorous moment when, after beating the game, his reward is the game's insistence that he simply start over again on a more advanced setting. Instead, Rex goes to retrieve his luggage at the airport during his lunch break; along the way, he becomes an accidental hero, and possibly finds love with a woman whose life he saves. The end. It's a disjointed and muddled hour of multimedia.

McQuilken doesn't speak much during the first part of the performance, and when he does it's mostly to interact with pre-recorded dialogue. He gets a little mileage out of his striking bug eyes and impressive physicality, which ranges from hand stands to tap dancing. But for a one person show, A Day in Dig Nation is frustratingly impersonal. If McQuilken, who co-wrote the play with Tommy Smith, was aiming for a parody of the technological tyranny that now defines western civilization, it's too broad by half. If pathos was the intent, Rex needs to be more than a vague sketch if the audience is to empathize. Maybe we're meant to feel indignation at what the 21st century has done to Rex, but I just felt indifferent.

A Day in Dig Nation runs through August 23rd at P.S. 122. You can purchase tickets here.