According to Pew Research, around 77 million Americans owned smartphones by November 2016, and people born in the new millennium have been dubbed "iGen" because of the nearly ubiquitous Apple iPhone.
None of the characters in Cat Crowley's BCT River Prize-winning play, House of Tomorrow, actually own iPhones, but there's plenty of acerbic skepticism of smart technologies in the play, which opened Feb. 24 at Boise Contemporary Theater.
Set in a not-too-distant future, House of Tomorrow opens with a squabble over home economics: Jane Jupiter (Ravin Patterson) has irked her husband, John Jupiter (Nicholas Paul Garcia), with her lavish spending on appliances. Caught in the middle is their distracted daughter, Jenny (Arianne Sermonia), who wants nothing more than to have fun with her friends. Their placid lives are upended when Jane's old friend, Patty Studebaker (Sara Bruner) arrives, intent on corrupting the family's all-controlling smart device, HANC (voiced by Matthew Cameron Clark), with sentience.
It's easy to live in a cycle of technologically enabled idleness and consumption, but there's a high price to pay for oblivion. It's a bad idea, for example, to give feelings to a computer that controls everything from bank accounts to door locks, and is programmed to help humans spend their money.
The aesthetic of the play is straight out of the space age, and the Jupiter residence is decked out in chrome-plated gadgets and divided into modules. The younger characters like Jenny and Mr. Salesman (Dakotah Brown) are fond of gee-whiz exclamations and alliteration. As forward-looking as the aesthetic of the play is, its older characters, who remember a world before mass automation and rampant consumerism, look backward. Patty is a drifter and revolutionary who pines for open spaces; and John, a former car mechanic, reminisces about coming home covered in grease and longs for a round of golf on a non-virtual golf course.
The world outside, with its freedoms and responsibilities, beckons, but the characters are poorly prepared for it. They're bubble-wrapped in virtual reality headgear, time-saving devices and safety equipment, slowly suffocating in the House of Tomorrow.