PROVO — What is the box? Who am I? Do I exist? What lies outside the box? These are all questions posed in The Box, a new play written by Christian Swenson and directed by Chase Ramsey.
The Box, a thoughtful and extremely short comedy, is a philosophical look at two men who explore communication and existence within the same realm. Man One (Daniel Anderson), and Man Two (Andrew Robertson), find themselves confined to a small box and have difficulty both co-habiting and understanding what is outside of the box. With a little help from the audience, the characters begin to see outside of the box and find fulfillment within themselves.
The Box contains a complex plot and deep symbolism. “The box” that is referenced is a metaphor for the mind, or limitations of the subconscious. For Man One and Man Two, the play is about escaping the box, or learning how to deal with the restraint of the human mind in seeing the world, thinking about things, or communicating with others. The characters banter over existentialism throughout the show, slightly resembling absurdist theater, and search the answers for typical existentialist questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What is real?”
Additionally, there are heavy influences of Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Swenson is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and he explained that Man 1 is based off of tendencies and symptoms of the syndrome. It is clear to see some of the common symptoms through Man One’s actions and language, such as having a hard time understanding others’ perspectives, empathizing with others, and that one “can only talk about the abstract.” These issues are especially exposed as the other characters challenge Man One, and the audience is shown the complexities of the syndrome, as well as the box that the two characters are restrained in.
Anderson and Robertson were both wonderfully cast and showed great strength in portraying these complex and untraditional characters. Anderson in particular gave a very honest performance as someone suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome and struggling with profound and philosophical questions about his life and the world. The two actors had apparent chemistry, causing the action to carry smoothly and their relationship to be truthful and not forced. Swenson himself also stood up and addressed the audience during the end of the play as a part of the piece. This was a very good choice, as it provided more clarity and premise to the issues presented in the play.
Dan Whiting’s simple set design aided in the production immensely as it gave a physical representation of the box. It also added an element of confinement, as the box was small and close to the audience, leaving a vast amount of empty space on the stage. I enjoyed the multiple light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, as they provided a more intimate feel to the space while at the same time gave off a perception that “the box” feels different than a normal room.
Although The Box is very thought provoking, it also has many moments of humor and even a surprising plot twist, contrasting the otherwise heavy material. The play shares a strong message with a lot of depth that I believe can touch every adult. I would encourage people to attend this production, and would also highly encourage staying for the talkback after every performance with the cast, Ramsey, and Swenson. The talkback I attended was a very insightful and informative experience and enriched the experience of the performance. As mentioned the show is very short, only 20 minutes long, and due to its content is most likely only suitable for adults.
The Box is a piece about barriers, but also it is a piece about understanding one’s self and others. Swenson and Ramsey had the goal of creating a play that would raise important questions of the soul and encourage audience members to think outside of their own boxes. I would like to congratulate Ramsey and Warboy Theatre Projects on successfully accomplishing this.