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Daniel Radcliffe and cast                       Photos by Joan Marcus


                                  by David Schultz

Playwright James Graham and co-creator/director Josie Rourke have orchestrated a mesmerizing evening of theater. That is not to say that this play is typical in any ordinary way. The skeletal plot and outline of this work is just window dressing for the true exploration that lies waiting to be discovered. Daniel Radcliffe in the starring role portrays a character simply named The Writer. Trying to heal his wounds from a painful breakup, we see him at his psychiatrists’ office trying to make sense of how and why this happened. His reluctance to share and open up is one main cause, his fear of intimacy and massive introversion as a young man has taken its toll. In a sudden jolt of discovery he decides to move from stuffy England and embark on a trip to Manhattan. His pilgrimage to cross the ocean will hopefully make him come to terms with his reticence, and to understand his passionate need for privacy.


FBI director James Comey (Michael Countryman) discusses privacy and relationships with The Writer (Daniel Radcliffe) in Privacy. FBI director James Comey (Michael Countryman) and The Writer (Daniel Radcliffe)


 It is in the United States of America, that he will tentatively embark on this sobering road to healing and to interview experts in the field to uncover why his total blockage of emotion has frozen him into inaction. A wide swath of experts is trotted out for our beleaguered hero…. Christian Rudder, President and co-founder of OKCupid, Sherry Turkle, professor and writer from MIT, The heads of Google, The director of the FBI, no less than thirty or so experts offer their opinions with intellectual relish. They float in and out of The Writers vivid imagination throughout the play. The superb ensemble impeccably embodies this disparate collection of authority figures. Morphing into their roles, Reg Rodgers, Rachel Dratch, Michael Countryman, Raffi Barsoumian and De’ Adre Aziza jump into and out of their portraits with aplomb.    

The real intent of the interactive drama is to show in exact and explicit ways how ALL of our information we gladly divulge to our computers and most importantly that little innocent-looking device we all carry around in our pockets…our cell phone give the entire world an x-ray into everything we do in life. From where we shop, who we speak to, where we go throughout the day, trails of cookies and innocent seeming information is stored for the use and misuse from the department stores, restaurants, Doctor visits with private personal information, right down to the hidden echelons of both our government and beyond.


Daniel Radcliffe, Reg Rogers, and Harry Davies star in James Graham's Privacy, directed by Josie Rourke, at the Public Theater.Daniel Radcliffe, Reg Rogers, and Harry Davies

This sounds like heavy going, but the creators of this work had the amusing, and audacious idea of incorporating the entire audience in the evening at hand. The fourth wall in this production is frequently broken; house lights are brought up, as various characters come downstage to chat with the audience. Our cell phones at the start of the show have been kept ON. This request is given to all who attend at the beginning of the show. The audience is given instructions to log onto a wireless network in the building. The amusing, yet creepy demonstrations of how much of our private information is kept and unseen by the unknowing cell phone owner is shown again and again during the evening’s proceedings. The audience is in full attention, as in the second act, when three spectators are plucked out of their seats and ushered on stage to three separate tables to interact with The Writer. There is a lot going on within the play, and we as the audience are also played with. Not once, but twice the viewers perspective is turned on its head with revelations. No spoiler alert here. The obsessive connection the populace has with their cell phones is given a huge slap in the face, and given its comeuppance. Technologic innovation seems to ignite the imagination, but this docudrama posits that the immense privacy we give up daily every time we pick up that Smartphone is fraught with danger. No one will be giving up their phones anytime soon naturally, but just be aware that someone is looking at you behind your back every time you use your Smartphone, or worse into your soul.



The Public Theater

425 Lafayette Street


Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Through August 14th