REVIEW: “stop. reset.” by Regina Taylor

Originally Published on http://showbusinessweekly.com/article-2323-%E2%80%9Cstop-reset%E2%80%9D-by-regina-taylor.html

Imagine a future where it is possible to erase your own personal and cultural history while adopting another’s. As the tangible and weighted bodies of books become digitized and easily shared across the world and between diverse societies, Taylor poses the question: what will come of us when our stories are no longer connected to the bodies that carry them. Without our memories who are we; are we anything more than flesh and bones, or mere empty vessels?

Regina Taylor, who is the writer and director of “stop. reset.” was smart to root complex philosophical concepts into a fairly straight-forward plot. Mr. Ames (Carl Lumbly), the founder and owner of Chicago’s first publishing house to promote African-American literature, is faced with the pain-staking task of firing one of his loyal and hard-working staff members. Over the years, his company has faced increasingly detrimental set-backs as e-books and e-journals rapidly replace in-print books and magazines. There is something romantic in the way Mr. Ames describes the irreplaceable feeling of leafing through delicate pages bound by a strong spine. Plus, his collection of literature represents a land-mark moment in time for African-American representation through literature.

What’s just as heart-breaking is that his small staff of four shares the same passion, yet he can’t afford to keep them—not without an improved business strategy. At a somewhat opportune moment, the young and spacey office janitor, named J (Ismael Cruz Cordova), begins drawing Mr. Ames’ attention. J speaks, or mumbles, in seemingly incoherent phrases. His language is broken into poetic stanzas with futuristic imagery and you get the feeling that he is from another planet, or realm of existence. However, Ames believes there is a genius business plan buried underneath J’s abstract jargon. J claims that he knows the bleak future of the publishing industry. Quite simply, J predicts that there won’t be a demand for books because the individual will be able to teleport, or time-travel into another person’s body and memory with the click of a button. This ability would replace the magical experience of traveling to another world by way of a good old-fashioned book and an imagination. In fact, J already has the power to erase and copy memories from one body to another with the help of a techno-centric necklace.

At times, J’s non-sensical ideas are hard to dissect because Taylor’s script is rich and loaded with social-political meaning; not to mention, he almost never speaks in full sentences. As globalization soars with the help of digital sharing, I can’t help but shudder at the probability that Taylor’s sci-fi world is already reality. Aren’t you, the reader and I, the writer, taking part in this phenomenon right now? “stop. reset.” continues through September 29th at Signature Theatre Company, 480 West 42nd Street; (212)244-7529, signaturetheatre.org.

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