Mona Pirnot Brilliantly Multiplies the Meanings of Privacy
by Jeanette Quick
“Why does it matter if people hear our business?”
“Private” by Mona Pirnot at SFBATCO is a wonderfully complex play. The show opens on Celeste Martore’s spare set where clean modern lines double as the living room of a young Bay Area couple and his tech company workspace.
Young engineer Corbin (Sedrick Cabrera) is the bumbling but earnest partner of headstrong Georgia (Aidaa Peerzada), an aspiring musician. They live in an ominous near-future, where every experience is “logged,” and protection of your privacy is purchased as nonchalantly as health insurance.
The fact that I had just downloaded the self-driving app Cruise–after logging into my iPhone using facial recognition– makes the world of “Private” feel disturbingly close.
Cabrera beautifully embodies Corbin as an over-eager techie, who comes home with great news: he has just received a job offer that will double his salary and permit Georgia to work on her music. The catch? His new boss requires continuous surveillance to prevent “corporate espionage.” Georgia pleads with her husband to reject the intrusion.
Pirnot’s play multiplies the meanings of privacy, examining the privacy we give away to strangers, byte by byte—for jobs, status, and promotions. Then the play takes an unexpected turn as Pirnot probes the privacy within our relationships, the secrets we keep from those we love most.
Martore and Director Peter J. Kuo place seating onstage to delve into a third layer of privacy: that of the spectator. In our digital age, all of us have become both the watcher and the watched. Kuo keeps probing with swift, smart direction.
“Private” pokes fun at Silicon Valley startups with phrases that justify oversharing—like “work is an action not a space.” As Abbey, the boss’s assistant, spot-on Risa Ferrer rationalizes the surveillance in the language of governments and corporations the world over: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about.” Abbey cheerily tries to side-step the whole issue.
But there is always something to worry about in human relationships. The cracks in their marriage are amplified in scenes between Georgia and her best friend Jordan (a charming Adam Maggio) as she reveals her private thoughts about her husband.
As Georgia and Corbin, Peerzada and Cabrera sizzle with electric synergy as the conflict blasts open their connections, one disaster after another. The marriage hangs by a single thread, as they admit: “I don’t want to do this all over again with someone new… Is this why people stay together?”
In the end, it’s not really a play about technology, though Abbey says, “technology is changing us; we can’t keep up.” What we can’t keep up with is how to be honest with each other, how to manage long-term relationships without letting our daily gripes and the tiny resentments snowball.
For all the changes in technology, we are still human—and this is a superbly human play. Don’t miss this layered examination of privacy and intimacy in the digital age.
“Private” by Mona Pirnot, directed by Peter J. Kuo, scenic & props design by Celeste Martore, costume design by Tiersa Nureyev, sound design by Ray Archie, and lighting design by Claudio Silva, by San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company, at Potrero Stage, San Francisco. Info: SFBATCO.org – to April 2, 2023.
Cast: Aidaa Peerzada, Sedrick Cabrera, Risa Ferrer, and Adam Maggio.
Banner photo: Sedrick Cabrera & Aidaa Peerzada. Photos: Alexa “LexMex” Treviño