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Photo: Joan Marcus Review
In the 2003, the musical “Avenue Q” told us the Internet was for porn. Now, more than a decade, British provocateur James Graham and Josie Rourke’s play “Privacy,” being presented by the Public Theater, tells us the Internet is for spying on every breath we take and every move we make. So do our cell phones, smart TVs, clothing, store rewards cards, and just about everything we on. It even knows what porn we watch.

How fascinating you will find “Privacy” – which I felt was sometimes engaging and largely tedious over its two-and-a-half hours – will depend on how little you knew before about how invasive technology can be, how dazzled you are by Rourke’s admittedly inventive staging (which also includes a ridiculous amount of audience participation in many forms), and how delighted you are just to be in the room with its star, Daniel Radcliffe. Like so many other recent British imports that left me unimpressed (including “War Horse,” “Ghost” and “Enron”), “Privacy” seems to underestimate the intelligence of its audience, and substitutes technical brilliance for simple character development.

His “Harry Potter” days almost a distant memory, Radcliffe continues to heavily impress as a versatile stage performer, this time digging his heels into the role of the nameless “Writer,” a vaguely discontented man with little social presence and, apparently, even less social media presence. His failure to communicate, especially one-on-one, has led to a very painful breakup, and so he decides to flee his native London and come to NYC where he believes he has a better chance of “becoming open” (and where, not so coincidentally, he may be able to reconnect with his ex-boyfriend who is now living here).

Graham’s germ of a story is, indeed, a good one, so it’s a shame he basically abandons any form of conventional dramatic storytelling to transform “Privacy” into a seemingly endless lecture about the dangers of modern technology. His “Big Brother Is Watching” message is delivered, rather blatantly, by a mix of fictional characters (such as wry British psychologist Josh Cohen) and a slew of real-life figures like FBI director James Comey, social media expert Randi Zuckerberg, and author Sherry Turkle, all of whom are brought to vivid life by Michael Countryman, Reg Rogers, Rachel Dratch, Raffi Barsoumian and De’Adre Aziza.

Oh yeah, there’s also an unnamed “researcher” (and uncredited actor) constantly lurking stage right, rarely looking up from his computer, and obviously invading all of our privacy every minute. Thankfully, if he knew what I was thinking, he didn’t it share it with the actors or the audience.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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De’Adre Aziza, Raffi Barsoumian, Michael Countryman, Rachel Dratch, Daniel Radcliffe, Reg Rogers

Open/Close Dates
Opening 7/2/2016
Closing 8/14/2016

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Theatre Info
Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10003