Vanessa Valliere is a QVC home shopping host in Manual Cinema’s The End of TV. Photo: Judy Sirota Rosenthal

Art and Overhead Projectors

At the Chopin Theater in Wicker Park, Manual Cinema has put on something truly marvelous, a play like nothing I have seen before. To be sure, it may be inaccurate of me to even describe “The End of TV” as a play. Stylistically like a shadow play, Manual Cinema presents what they call “live film”, manipulating figures projected via overhead to tell the story of a demented elderly woman who impulsively purchases QVC products, and her relationship with a Meals on Wheels driver.

However, “The End of TV” does not put style before substance. Despite a slender 70-minute run-time, “The End of TV” manages to weave in themes of deindustrialization, mental illness, the ephemerality of consumerism, loss, grief, and, ultimately, the sincerity of human relationships. It is that idea of human relationships that unites every aspect of the play. The story being projected onto the screen could very easily be prerecorded and presented as a film. Instead, the audience sees the performers scrambling about, ducking out of the way, and changing costumes while the live film continues. The strewn costumes and overhead projectors are not hidden from the audience. The audience is allowed to see how the sausage is made. One starts to root for the performers to get to their marks on time. Just as the performers present a relationship on screen, their mode of storytelling creates one with their audience.

In all, a beautiful performance, and one I could not recommend more.

End of TV is playing at the Chopin Theatre until August 5, 2018. Ticket available here: END OF TV