For graduating seniors facing a fiercely competitive job market, the age of free-flowing venture capital, amorphous dress codes and foosball tables in the workplace is a shockingly distant memory. The naïve enthusiasm of the dot-com generation is all but dead. And yet, it’s nice to think back—on the one hand, reminiscing about the easy money, and on the other, chuckling knowingly at the mistakes of those touting the infallibility of internet start-up success. The timing is perfect, then, for a production that offers haggard veterans of the recruiting process a look at the fantastic world that once was.
Enter The Dot-Comedy of Errors. The brainchild of writers Ezra Keshet ’99 and Yoho Myrvaagnes ’01 and director Rachel J. Eisenhaure ’02, the musical is a free-wheeling mockery, playfully ridiculing all that was embodied in the internet generation while teasing itself for its flimsy plot and obviously farcical elements.
About that plot: it is simple and clichéd, but intentionally so. Two internet start-ups compete in a game-show-like competition sponsored by a venture capitalist. The company with the most website hits at the end of the month wins a fat check. Veg-E-Tech, the creation of the play’s clumsy but affable hero Evan Fuzzy (played by Keshet), must triumph over rival Cold Hard Machinations or else face downsizing or, even worse, bankruptcy. To round out the self-mockingly predictable plot, a sappy romance is tossed in. Evan falls for Jennifer “Jen” X (Randi J. Zuckerberg ’03), the daughter of the venture capitalist, and must overcome his awkwardness to win her love.
That Dot-Comedy’s plot is shallow and not always terribly interesting is excusable—it adds to the light-hearted tone of the evening and does not stand in the way of the telegraphed punch lines. Less excusable is the mediocre execution of the production’s many musical numbers. The characters (even the iMacs impersonated by actors and prominently featured in the advertisements) are constantly breaking into song and dance. Their zany numbers are littered with puns and intended as the pinnacle of the show’s mockery of the internet world, the musical genre and itself.
And yet something goes terribly wrong. More than once, a song is completely drowned out by the production’s twelve-person orchestra, which is situated between the stage and the audience, as is standard in the Agassiz. Much of the blame here must be given to the faint-voiced actors; the orchestra is not exceedingly resonant. Some of the actors are simply unable to vocalize over the instruments, and it is not clear that they could be heard clearly even if the orchestra were not playing at all. The frustrating effect of losing the words to songs cannot be underestimated. Drowned along with the actor’s voice is the comedy, which is, after all, the point of the whole evening.
The group dance sequences that accompany the songs do little to redeem them. Far from impeccably executed, the dances often seem completely out of sync. Spins and leg-kicks are poorly timed and, coupled with the erratic quality of the singing, they give the impression of an under-rehearsed performance.
Technical errors compound the problems presented by the faint voices and disorganized dances. The speakers, used principally for sound effects, don’t always work when they should and sometimes work when they shouldn’t. And, on opening night, a late opening of the curtain created an awkward moment.
Despite these shortcomings, Dot-Comedy is a surprisingly enjoyable show when taken with a grain of salt. The cast genuinely has fun with the show and the audience follows suit. Jokes that could seem irritatingly corny come across as clever and enjoyable in the context of such a show. In a rich irony, the poorly executed musical numbers add substantially to what becomes an all-out farce. The actors, accepting and even embracing their own missteps, emerge ever more endearing.
Dot-Comedy bills itself as “a musical for the irrationally exuberant.” This assessment could not be more accurate. In no rational sense is it artistically profound or flawlessly executed. The song and dance, so critical to the success of an ordinary musical, certainly leave much to be desired. Still, the audience gives in to the waves of self-effacing humor and the contagious energy of the cast. By the night’s end, they are more than willing to join in the spontaneous gaiety of the spectacle. And perhaps that is just the point. Perhaps an evening of irrationality and exuberance is necessary in order to recapture, if mockingly, the spirit of the dot-com age.