Good things can come in small packages.
Two Brooklyn performers explore the intricacies and craziness of living in a space just big enough for a murphy bed and miniature fridge during their very relatable new musical variety show — “Containertopia!” — at the Jalopy Theatre on the edge of Red Hook, debuting on April 28. Creators Julia Frey and Sam Day Harmet, who each navigate their own compact apartments, unpack the tiny-house movement and what it means to live small, said Frey.
“I do live in a pretty small apartment, not quite the teeny-tiny murphy bed that we are exploring, but there is something appealing about living small, and decluttering your life, and how simply can one live. But at the same time, if I live that simply, will I live myself out of existence?” said Frey, who lives in Gowanus.
Living in a cramped space can feel extremely individual and intimate, but Frey said the city’s space crunch raises broader issues.
“How do we fit everyone into New York? And how can we make housing that everyone in New York can afford and without disrupting people’s lives?” she said. “We can, and we can’t, at the same time. It’s a constant struggle, there aren’t any easy answers.”
The duo got the idea after meeting at a performance program at Brooklyn College, and after discussing all of the woes that afflict New Yorkers’ housing — including homelessness, gentrification, and skyrocketing rents — they focused on the relatively new movement of micro-apartments, said Frey.
The hour-long vaudevillian inspired comedy show incorporates Weimar-era cabaret tunes and an eclectic array of instruments, including piano, banjo, clarinet, and drums to give more depth and perspective to the show, said Day Harmet, who lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
“Very much like in the structure of a vaudeville show, it’s a mixture of where we try to have contrasting scenes,” he said. “[The songs] are interspersed to create variety and flow within the show.”
And the creators tip their hats to that era of theater, and sought to make parallels in the show between the disproportionate wealth distribution of 1920s Germany and today, which Frey said is evident in the micro-apartment movement.
“When it was happening there, there was a similar economic disparity to what’s happening today, and we are leaning into these old early-20th-century styles to reflect — recognizing them in today’s culture and climate,” she said.
The show also questions the micro-apartment movement’s intentions of being sustainable and affordable, because a lot of the so-called micro-apartments are actually rather luxurious — though on a smaller scale, said Day Harmet.
“They tend to be marketed more as luxury housing options, kind of like these trendy options for young professionals living in Manhattan. The funny thing about it being framed as a more alternative option for moving towards more sustainability and more affordable housing, but as it exists now, it’s mostly kind of a luxury bourgeoisie option,” he said. “We want to examine it from a number of apartments and maybe get excited about the promise of them, but realize it’s sort of a trapping of them, and the ways it can exaggerate wealth and equality.”
“Containertopia!” at the Jalopy Theatre (315 Columbia St. between Hamilton Avenue and Woodhull Street in Red Hook, conta
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