An Ode to Isolation: Those Women Productions’ ‘HINDSIGHT 2020’

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Entering 2020, New Year decorations capitalized on “20/20 vision,” “the roaring 20s” and other such optimistic phrases. However, the year 2020 took a drastic turn with the COVID-19 pandemic, throwing the world into a collectively and historically horrible year — and leaving us with no perky puns, except that hindsight is 20/20. 

Directed and created by Rebecca Haley Clark, in collaboration with Those Women Productions and an exceptionally talented team of artists, “HINDSIGHT 2020” encapsulates the universal experiences of longing, disconnection and endurance that 2020 produced in us all, from baking bread to working at home to illness — the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Through a collage of multimedia art forms and images, “HINDSIGHT 2020” contemplates and laments the unique challenges posed by last year, using the production as a fascinating and relatable form of catharsis. 

The play begins with a slideshow of all the artists who worked on or in the production, along with what they learned, loved and let go from 2020. It then transitions to a cheeky introduction, with Clark giving a Zoom-adapted theater welcome. Before she can finish, she is interrupted by her “brother,” played by Sanjay Lago, who joins the meeting unmuted, music on blast, wifi glitching, from Scotland. The two perform a humorous exchange of information, embarrassment and tea before the pre-recorded production actually begins. 

Much like 2020, the storyline has no singular beginning, end or objective. Rather, each scene speaks to a different aspect of the universal 2020 experience. The first scene merges a man laying in bed, tossing restlessly, with a voice-over of a poetic soliloquy; murmuring frustrations merged with Greek philosophizing. Throughout the play, these voice-overs define themselves as a powerful and haunting medium, bridging concrete exasperations together with themes of philosophical questioning, returning again and again to Odysseus’s journey. 

A significant theme of “HINDSIGHT 2020” is the artists’ own frustrations with isolation, both from loved ones and from an audience. They ask, “What are these boxes staring back at me, is this theater?” and protest, “I want back on the stage right now!” With no stage to return to, however, the play instead toys with the imagination of the stage, the screen and the audience. Cardboard cutouts dance across a miniature, cardboard theater while actors dance over projected scenes. 

Dance is a central and thrilling medium in the play, with various styles, intensities and emotions projected. The dancers move with passion, joy and intention, reminding the audience that dance is an artform that can be expressed and enjoyed even in isolation. Sometimes the dancers ignore the camera, but at other times they stare through the lens, smiling, laughing and engaging with the audience. One of the most engaging dancers is Gilda Mercado, who moves with an enthralling and inspiring grace. 

Unlike many other virtual plays that have aired over the course of this pandemic, “HINDSIGHT 2020” does not attempt to filter its film with professional lighting or angles. Instead, much of the play appears to have been filmed on smartphones and laptop cameras, making it all the more real and relatable. 

Many scenes occur over a recorded Zoom meeting, with actors speaking singularly or collectively in both humorous and awkward moments. One of the most hilarious scenes of the play is a children’s music class, filmed over Zoom, in which the actors peer through the camera, sing along or sit grumpily in protest. The scene may be brief, but it is excellently performed and insightfully significant to the past year’s strange, virtual interactions. 

The play ends on a somewhat lower note, with the pain of death and isolation on raw display. Actors reach for each other across screens, retell the death of family members and long for a love that could have been. These scenes are summarized in the line: “It’s hard to say goodbye when you can’t give someone a hug.” 

“HINDSIGHT 2020” is a testament to the incredible strength and endurance of people, to hold out hope, to adapt, to find new communities and to find new mediums of creative expression. A true and honest ode to 2020, “HINDSIGHT 2020” looks back upon a year of struggle and encapsulates it with undeniable skill and refreshing creativity. 

Contact Nathalie Grogan at [email protected].