by Chance Morgan
There are few things more ordinary, familiar or versatile than a cardboard box. They are tools for storage, for transportation, and often for play. It takes great imagination and energy to transform a simple cardboard box into something more. Dennis Elkins achieves this, combining childlike wonder, adult cynicism and Shakespearean gravitas in his impressively compelling story, aptly titled “box.”
In the program notes, Mr. Elkins states that his show calls for “ransoming our lives from the boxes tucked away under the bed, down in the basement, up in the attic; giving voice to the sometimes prickly yet pleasurable process of packing and unpacking our prized possessions.” The aim of the show is simple, but the journey is deeper than first impressions would indicate.
Mr. Elkins begins by “driving” around the stage while wearing a large cardboard box, much as a young child would do. Occasionally he stops to ponder a question of adult life, or shares a bit of knowledge. The box, naturally, plays a significant part in the storytelling, as Mr. Elkins recounts the many times he has dealt with the pains and pleasures of packing. He has packed up his parents’ house after his mother’s passing, packed up his own possessions for numerous cross‑country moves, and packed up the possessions of his late son. In relating these experiences, he poses larger questions. Why do we cling to so much stuff throughout our lives? Why do we keep the possessions of those who have passed on? At what point do certain items lose their importance to us? How do we discard possessions that are so closely linked to our identity? Mr. Elkins addresses these questions and more with great eloquence, infectious enthusiasm, and a clever sense of humor.
Mr. Elkins observes that the sense of touch is tremendously important for communication and memory. Touching a loved one can communicate deep meaning, and physically interacting with objects associated with certain memories helps keep those memories alive. Whether the object in question is an heirloom dinnerware set, a small glass unicorn, a red upright piano, or a favorite article of clothing, physically touching them is key to keeping relevant memories and feelings vivid and real.
In “box.” Mr. Elkins asserts that possessions help define who a person is, and can just as significantly remind others who a person was. Sometimes it takes something as extraordinary as “box.” to remind us of that fact. And sometimes it takes something as simple as taking out that old box from that dark corner to rediscover memories we had long forgotten.
Performed by Dennis Elkins
Oct. 24 at 3:30pm
Director: Karla Knudsen
Stage Manager: Monique Cuyler
Lighting Design: Elaine Wong
Sound Design: Robert Hornbostel
Show image by Zach Burke, courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHANCE MORGAN is a writer and director currently based in New Jersey. He has worked for Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and Bay Street Theatre. He is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University’s theatre program, and spends his time developing his screenplays and musicals.