Everyone living in New York City knows what it is like to live in a box. Though they may be different sizes, though they may house different things, they are, at least, one thing that we all have in common. But that is where our similarities end in The Box. In this autobiographical work, Steffi Kammer ushers her audience through her life growing up in Brooklyn’s Farragut housing projects, her experience attending The Dalton School (one of the finest private schools and the place where Kammer began developing the play), and introduces us to characters whose only similarities are their encounters with Kammer and their boxes. As her stories amass, so do the memories she collects of events fond and foul, of people kind and crass, and of experiences anyone might wish to forget. She places these memories in her otherwise-unused refrigerator, eventually creating her own version of a Joseph Cornell assemblage .
Though people and events she encounters may not be altogether unusual, like the homeless man who tells her he will marry her, Kammer weaves her stories with the fresh earnestness of a child. She does not rage when older men take advantage of her, but, as Cornell did with found objects, Kammer puts memories of these events in her own box.
Metaphors abound in The Box. Concepts like boxes (as home, as theatre, as safety, as separation, etc.) and working (in both the electrical and design senses) trace through the show’s 65 minutes like familiar friends, popping up in some unexpected places.
Kammer’s ease, humor, and tenderness make the play nothing less than charming. Her quirkiness is endearing and her narrative is remarkable.
While some moments may feel a bit clichéd and the piece would benefit from more careful staging, it is an overall enchanting work. The Box is well worth seeing for anyone who, no matter the extraordinary variety of bizarre things she sees in a day, finds herself living in a box.