The challenge of creating a unique yet personal work that is also accessible to an audience is something many young artists strive to do. In The Daphne and Carl Experience’s Who Are You? Who Are We? What Is This?, creators Daphne Gardner and Carl Holder strive to do just so. Instead Who Are You? Who Are We? What Is This? is a celebration of self.
Broke into three acts if you will, The Daphne and Carl Experience bring the audience right into their world. In part one, you’re invited to grab a drink, meet your neighbor, and fill out a questionnaire about all your aspirations. You got an opportunity to meet your hosts who advise you to hold onto your questionnaire. If you’re one of those people who gets anxiety with audience participation, your psyche may be in panic mode as to whether or not your answers will become a guest star in the experience. In part two, you’re escorted to the theater to watch the second part of the title. Daphne and Carl are virtually you and me. The lonely artist with a dream. With the duo playing a cast of characters, including themselves, we watch the lives of two artists as they attempt to create the play we’re currently watching. Very meta. In part three, those questionnaires are back in action and the moral of the evening is revealed. What Who Are You? Who Are We? What Is This? does well is remind us that we’re all the same. And by we, I mean the lonely and sad artists with a dream. With an audience made up primarily of likeminded individuals, many of whom know the stars, the middle section is either hit or miss. The more you know about the performers, the more you enjoy. The less you know, the more it feels like two individuals trying to cash in on the Lena Denham model. With that being said, the interactive and immersive portions of the evening are the ones that will stick with you after you leave the Gene Frankel Theater.
Daphne Gardner and Carl Holder are good friends and it shows on stage. Their chemistry and support of one another is what makes their journey tick. Holder is clearly a seasoned veteran in character work, easing into his various non-self bits. Gardner’s characters are bit more one dimensional, but are still fun to watch. Under the direction of Jim Fagan, Who Are You? Who Are We? What Is This? eases from moment to moment. Julia Bilboa’s set is quiet genius. Almost all of the furniture is papier-mâchéd with the questionnaire, tying the entire evening together.
Next time you’re feeling down, just remember you’re not alone. Your bestie is just a FaceTime away!