DANCES WITH FILMS 2021 REVIEW! No one came out of lockdown and quarantine unscathed. The world of live performance was hit particularly hard as theaters were forced to shut down, leaving creatives with very few options to express themselves. Thank God (maybe) for Zoom. The series Little Boxes (A Birth Story) was “born” from a group of actors at The BGB Studio’s Saturday morning acting class looking for a channel to express themselves, allowing them to be safe and socially distant.
Our story follows a married couple, Laura (Leslie Murphy) and Helen (Ellyn Jameson), deciding that now is the time to have a child. The series opens with Laura and her brother, Mike (Ben Huth), chatting on Zoom. Laura hopes that Mike will be the sperm donor for Helen’s eggs. Mike has serious reservations but goes through with it.
Mike is the tip of the iceberg of family dysfunction. Helen’s mother, Nancy (Harley Jane Kozak), is excited about the baby, but her father, Kip (Kyle Secor), was never on board with his daughter’s same-sex marriage, and the two haven’t spoken since Helen came out. Then there is Beth (Kelly Wolf), who is about to begin her first round of chemotherapy and needs her ex-husband, Carl (James Morrison), to help watch their son, Niko, when Beth is not feeling well. Carl is hesitant but knows that he must come through for his ex-wife.
Little Boxes is a series of fourteen five-minute dramatic moments of family connecting over Zoom. The tone of the series feels like a prime-time soap opera; think Parenthood. Along with the typical drama surrounding family issues, there is the added layer of the pandemic as Laura, who’s in another state, freaks out over the pregnant Helen going outside for a walk and removing her mask when no one is around. Beth also is alarmed upon learning that Carl is dating and having physical contact with the unknown (to her) girlfriend.
“Laura hopes that Mike will be the sperm donor for Helen’s eggs.”
As the title implies, Little Boxes forges its character’s relationships through Zoom’s “little boxes.” Unfortunately, as much as the actors poured their heart and soul into writing, directing, and editing the series themselves, I’m just not convinced that acting and other forms of performance art work over video chat. Quite frankly, I don’t know if it could ever work. Watching people separated by miles is not the same as watching people separated by inches.
It might just be me, but being physically present is the best way to build and strengthen relationships. There’s nothing to hide. There’s nowhere to run. The physical connection we make just can’t be replicated on a screen. If anything, I think we are resistant to the idea that talking into our black mirrors is the new normal.
The only issue I had with the actual story is the lack of character development. This has a lot to do with its fast five minutes for each episode. It’s just not enough time to get us to connect with the players. First, we see the person on the screen and have a general sense of their situation, but then we only get a surface-level dive into their personalities.
Little Boxes (A Birth Story) offers insight into what it means to be family in a time of isolation, and the work and dedication of the cast to bring this story together did not go unnoticed. It speaks to the spirit of human nature to adapt to the world-changing around us and fight for a way to pursue what we love. Let’s face it, Zoom and all the other meeting apps were a life-saver for many, but it is just not as good as the real thing. So, it’s time to head back to the theater.
Little Boxes (A Birth Story) screened at the 2021 Dances with Films.
"…offers insight into what it means to be family in a time of isolation..."