We don’t have to hear the trees to know they’re all falling. The doom feed is continuous — though by definition, we don’t feel it. The screens and speakers that bring the world to us keep it at an illusory distance. The premise that we could genuinely sense it without all that apparatus drives the crackpot who calls in to shock-jock Brent Ziff’s talk-radio show in the audio drama The Earth Moves, claiming that he can predict tectonic disasters with perfect accuracy (and no more than about a half-hour’s notice).
Even a half-hour more would have been nice for planning the extraction of the hundreds of thousands of people whose survival we’re botching in Afghanistan, which sounds like something a pissed-off caller to Brent’s show would say, but The Earth Moves’ debut on the Friday of the weekend of the latest fall of Kabul is much closer than comfort. Ditto the week of Haiti’s most catastrophic earthquake yet. Long-time listener, possibly last-caller-ever Leo Short wants to use Brent’s megaphone to help amplify what he hears the earth saying — or maybe muttering in its sleep, as its continental plates turn over and toss most humans on its surface asunder, in a disaster-movie metaphor for our environmental comeuppance and social fault-lines.
Playwright Mac Rogers steers an assured head-on collision between the terrifying situation-room tension of a Dr. Strangelove and the casual hilarity of all of us bullshitting across our banks of screens, and sole speakers Brian Silliman (as Brent) and Abe Goldfarb (as Leo) volley their Socratic shouting-match of solitude, sarcasm and sporadic, wary sensitivity with a spontaneity that feels as if it is streaming live and our stake in its outcome is desperately personal. We can’t interrupt the broadcast in our heads, and if there’s a future we’ll have to unmute each other.