In the new play “I Google Myself,” a Theatre Askew production at Under St. Mark’s, this ordinary act fuels a bizarre encounter which takes on ever creepier proportions in a show both hilarious and gothic.
By Ellen Wernecke
Birds do it, bees do it – well, they would if they had Internet access. The practice of self-Googling, unheard of a decade ago when Google was just another search engine, has become a metaphor for expressing one’s anxiety in the digital age. When a man Googles himself and finds that a gay porn star shares his name (a name that is never given), he might react in a number of ways, but in “I Google Myself,” the 38th result (Tim Cusack, listed in the program as One) invites the 1st result (Nathan Blew, or Two) out to coffee on the pretext of interviewing him. Two claims to have never Googled himself; the nervous One, red-faced and squirming, admits, “I do it whenever I’m stressed or cranky... It helps.” In fact, having some of Two’s porn -- in which he’s a cocky sadist who specializes in slapping -- is what ruined his marriage, or so he claims.
But One isn’t really a journalist -- that’s a means to an end, just like Two claims to only do gay porn because it pays better. They don’t actually share the same name, but Two cribbed his porn star name after a junior-high bully. Intending to avenge Two, One meets the erstwhile bully Three (John Gardner), now a pot-smoking, bad-poetry-writing loser, and pretends to be Two: “Let’s play a game,” he says baldly, “Tell me what you remember about me.” When Three can’t bring him closer to Two, One lashes out in a way that his mild-mannered, Home-Depot-employed alter ego didn’t seem capable of.
Director Jason Jacobs wastes no time in this 75-minute show, punctuating the short scenes with voiced-over Google revelations (“Someone with my name…”) When all three characters are onscreen, it’s hard to know whether to watch the meek-seeming Cusack or the smirking, muscular Blew. Savvy costume design by Daniel Urlie puts each of the characters something yellow to wear in the first half of the play, visually tying the three dissimilar men together. “I Google Myself” occasionally resembles a “Dateline” episode without panicked voiceover (“There are bad people there, and they can get you in the Internet!), but what happens after the initial act can hardly be blamed on Google. The Internet didn’t create the tension between One, Two and Three, just amplified the malice and misplaced lust that was already there. (If the three men of similar name had lived in a small village in the 17th century, the same passions would be there, although it may have taken them longer to find each other.) It’s not the computer, it’s what you do with it.
“I Google Myself” Theatre Askew
Through July 7, Thursday & Friday 8pm, Saturday 8pm and 10:30pm
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
(btw. First and Ave. A)
Tickets, $18/$15, 212-352-3101 or OvationTix
For more information, visit Theatre Askew’s Website.
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