Smooth Operators

Theater Review: Under the Radar Festival: Call Cutta in a Box

By Helen Shaw

15.01.2009 / Time Out New York

Walking into an empty, sparely furnished room at the Goethe-Institute, the lone audience member hears the phone ringing. It’s a strange moment of crisis: We’ve paid our money and so we must be ready for a show to begin. But Call Cutta in a Box, Rimini Protokoll’s thrillingly intimate production, asks us to make the decision to be an audience member in an unusually active way.

We feel brave as we pick up the phone, only to find a kind, concerned-sounding worker from a Calcutta call center on the line. I spoke with Dicky Banerjee, one of Rimini Protokoll’s 12 nonactor participants, who then transformed the unoccupied New York room into a kind of magician’s cave. From thousands of miles away, Dicky prepared me a cup of tea, triggered music and played gentle tricks with my surroundings. We chatted about reincarnation and how lonely the city can feel, while I stared out into a drizzling Upper East Side. And he gave me a virtual tour of his call center, pointing out his fellow worker who was chatting with her assigned audience member, who must have been drinking his tea elsewhere in the Goethe Institute.

Rimini Protokoll—a German collective made up of Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel—has made its reputation in Europe with a “theater of experts,” and so Dicky’s ease in handling me came as no surprise. What is unexpected is the personalizing of what is usually a commercial contact, and the flood of well-being—overwhelming, sweet and gratifying—that attends it.
— Helen Shaw


Call Cutta in a Box