I will be honest. I don’t know what byCHANCE – a new web series from Noah Craigwell, Darrus Sands, Miranda Craigwell, and Miles Craigwell of Beyond Measures Productions – is about. “People,” I guess? It’s the only other option besides completely BSing my way through this review, but I don’t write for Buddyhead.
So, here is what I think I know about byCHANCE: It’s a web series consisting of a variety of random, unconnected stories set in and around Boston that “deal with real people in real situations.” The first story “In Limbo” is about a homeless actor named Mace. The second story “Grey Line” is about a girl who likes a boy, and owns a cell phone.
Now here is what I don’t know about byCHANCE, and may never find out: Why is Mace homeless? Why does Mace have “thanks for a good time last night” written in marker on his chest? Why is the woman in “Grey Line” so head over heels for the man even though he’s distant? Granted, that last one poses a side question about women and relationships that not even the great Elayne Boosler has been able to answer.
As it pertains to “In Limbo,” limbo is the operative word. At its beginning the lead character Mace is talking to a friend in a snow covered park about a two day old party and his last acting audition. It’s a touchy subject. Day turns to night and Mace has no place to stay so he phones a friend to ask if he can crash on his sofa. The friend, too busy watching reruns of Martin, puts Mace on hold to pretend to ask for permission. It’s a tense and shameful scene. The answer is no.
Mace finds another place to sleep, and the next morning receives a phone call from the casting agent about his prior audition. Hooray, it’s a call back. Woops, his phone runs out of minutes in the middle of the call. That is the last mention of it in the story. So Mace hangs out at a bus stop. He asks a woman for a dollar. Eyes her purse. The end.
See, I don’t know what that is? It could be that the object of byCHANCE is to film a moment in a person’s life and only a moment, adding zero context – a slice of life if you will. Slice of life, not too coincidentally, is a dead metaphor. Or maybe we will rejoin Mace in future episodes with answers to these questions, but that only points out a more serious flaw in thematic structure.
I bring up context because without it it’s hard to understand a character like Mace. I won’t say that I didn’t care about him. He’s homeless, and I’m not a monster. I just didn’t understand why I should care about his acting, or touchy demeanor, or the mystery surrounding his mother.
In that way byCHANCE is a wasted opportunity. The characters in both stories are compelling at face value. There is much more to know there unfortunately little hope of finding out. What we get instead, and seem to be promised more of, are out of context stories so keen on format there is no “chance” of them having concrete beginnings or endings. It’s because of that structure that I have nothing concrete to say about these stories, other than that they look nice and are definitely set in Boston.