Mosaic Theater’s ‘Private’ explores work-life balance under constant surveillance

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Mosaic Theater's 'Private' (Part 1)

Work-life balance has long been an important subject even before futuristic technology, but when you add the eye of constant company surveillance, things quickly get complicated.

That’s the theme of Mosaic Theater’s new production called “Private,” running now through April 17 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street, Northeast.

“It’s a relationship play about a married couple navigating a change in their life when the husband gets a new job,” Director Knud Adams told WTOP. “That job disrupts their lives by (raising) private, vulnerable questions about the value of privacy in one’s home, in the near future if it’s possible to leave work at work, if that distinction even exists anymore.”

Mona Pirnot’s play follows Corbin (Eric Berryman), who lands the job of his dreams, so his wife Georgia (Temídayo Amay) quits her day job and focus on her passion for music. What Corbin hasn’t told her is that he has given up all rights to the couple’s privacy as a condition of employment. Will the surveillance be too much for their marriage to survive?

“Mona has extrapolated technologies that are very popular now and put those in the hands of the individual and the corporation,” Adams said. “The ability to be listened to at all times, to have yourself recorded at all times, to play back memories from your life, from your partner’s life, to grant access to your aural history to your partner and to your job.”

Set in the near future, it’s more “science reality” than “science fiction.”

“We eschew the ‘sci-fi’ term because it normalizes that technology very quickly and starts to focus on the relationships for a classic marriage story like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer,’ ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ or ‘A Woman Under the Influence,'” Adams said. “It’s responding to current events and changes in social customs through the lens of a particular relationship.”

The onstage marriage is brought to life by familiar local actors.

“We have Eric Berryman, who was born and raised in Baltimore and has been back and forth between D.C. and New York his entire career, fantastic,” Adams said. “As Georgia, we have Temídayo Amay, who is a D.C. superstar. Together, just seeing them play off each other is worth the price of admission alone. It’s been a thrill watching them work.”

How is their near-future world visualized for the stage?

“Creating a very specific world that serves the many locations, but avoiding the cliché ideas about what the future looks like, which is sometimes about plexiglass, steel and body suits,” Adams said. “What we’ve done is look to the past. Interior design, just like fashion, is very cyclical, so what you see is a surprising throwback to … the late ’60s, early ’70s.”

Mosaic Artistic Director Reg Douglas has loved watching Adams realize his vision.

“We are very lucky to have Knud with us; his production of ‘English’ off-Broadway is a big critics’ hit, a real master of new plays,” Douglas told WTOP. “Something you’ve done so wonderfully with the designers is use bold colors and really sharp design choices. … I find myself leaning in. I’m excited for audiences to experience a very different take of what future means.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Mosaic Theater's 'Private' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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