Review: Goodman Theatre’s Highway Patrol Is a Thought-Provoking Story About Online Friendship
“The truth is, I needed to know I could love someone.”
That’s all so many of us want—to love and to feel loved. That can look a number of different ways, but at the root, it all boils down to the same thing—to both give and feel that human emotion from one individual to another. For Dana Delany, that desire takes her on a journey no one could have anticipated.
Based on the digital archives of Dana Delany, Highway Patrol begins with a tweet from a young person battling chronic illness. 13-year-old Cam (Thomas Murphy Molony) tweets at actor Dana Delany, letting her know that if she was single, he would marry her. The small tweet turns into an around-the-clock online friendship in which Delany and Cam discuss the highs and lows of the world. Delany helps Cam through his hospital visits, and he offers companionship to Delany, feeling incredibly lonely in her current lifestyle. As Nan (played brilliantly by Dot-Marie Jones) joins the conversation, it almost feels like Dana has found a family. When Cam starts seemingly receiving messages from a world beyond, Dana is forced to question the validity of this friendship, as well as just how far we are willing to go to feel loved. As we watch the relationship develop, we are invited to consider the balance between what is real, and what we may just want ourselves to believe.
Written by Jen Silverman, this world premiere is full of twists and turns. The entire play takes the audience through nine years of emails and tweets from Delany’s archives, allowing us to see just how far this online relationship developed. Rarely do I find myself genuinely unsure of where a story may go, and based on the audible gasps from the audience, it was clear I was not alone. Performed by Delany herself, every twist is filled with an emotional authenticity—particularly in the moments we see just how much she allowed herself to care for Cam’s well-being.
Especially considering that much of the play focuses on two individuals speaking through online platforms, director Mike Donahue keeps the show fast-paced and riveting. Projection designer Yee Eun Nam fills the large space with tweets and excerpts from the emails, and as the projections wash over Delany, you might find it is hard not to feel yourself drawn into the allure of the messages alongside her.
You may also find that the artistic choice acts as a useful reminder of just how little has changed since 2012. Anyone could send a tweet, and one never really knows who may be sitting on the other side of an email. The team invites us to consider: In a world that feels as disconnected as ever, how far are we willing to go to find connection?
Full of intrigue and jaw-dropping reveals, Highway Patrol is a roller-coaster from start to finish.
Highway Patrol runs through February 18 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets are $35-$70 for Tuesday-Sunday performances. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including intermission.
For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.
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