Week-long phone-based show made me de-stress for a while

Outside the March's intimate and interactive Ministry Of Mundane Mysteries provided a bit of comfort during an uncertain time


THE MINISTRY OF MUNDANE MYSTERIES created by the company (Outside the March). Ongoing. $35. mundanemysteries.com. Rating: NNNN


While there are lots of big unknowns in our lives right now, Outside the March‘s entertaining new interactive show helped me solve one of the less urgent matters weighing on me. And it was all done with spontaneity, intelligence and a sense of fun.

A couple of weeks ago, I was searching my cluttered condo for my promotional screener of the movie Gravity. I figured rewatching Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent 2013 film about an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) lost in space might inspire me, help me cope with my own sense of isolation and impending doom and kill a couple of hours.

But I couldn’t find it. And so, on the application form for OtM’s The Ministry Of Mundane Mysteries, I submitted my request and called it The Case Of The Missing Gravity DVD. The following Monday to Saturday at the same time every day, I received a short five to 10 minute phone call about what may (or may not) have happened to it.

The first call came from the ministry’s Inspector Doyle. This conversation turned out to be the longest, since I had to explain the significance of the item and talk about what I’d been doing in the few weeks since the world went on lockdown. There was something liberating and damn cathartic about opening up to a complete stranger (even if I did recognize actor Colin Doyle‘s voice) about my fears and coping strategies, big and small. Doyle told me to keep my eyes and ears open in the days ahead. 

And sure enough, the next few calls – all from blocked numbers – provided some clues, theories and red herrings about my missing DVD.

A gruff-sounding fellow film critic informed me that screeners for films by other Mexican directors were disappearing, and this might be tied to declining revenues at local Mexican restaurants. An employee at Warner Bros., the distributor of Gravity, told me she was seeking screeners for their recycling program, and asked if I could send my copy of the Cuarón film. A rep from HBO/Crave informed me they were, in fact, in possession of my watermarked Gravity DVD. Meanwhile, Doyle had infiltrated something called the MFDG, or the Mexican Film Directors’ Guild. 

What I soon discovered was that, despite my fluctuating moods, the daily call provided a much-needed break from grim reality. The fact, too, that communication was done via phone and not video conferencing was refreshing. We’re all spending way too much time looking at screens of various sizes, and to simply talk to someone – and have their words and voices conjure up images – felt special.

The actors were spontaneous and quick on their feet. Favourite moments included discussing the film critic Richards (Crouse, Roeper) and the chance of discovering a new version of Gravity with a never-before-seen ending. 

And when Doyle finally revealed his findings – involving a culprit named Werner Chico Greenblatt – it felt oddly satisfying. Not just because there was an answer to a minor mystery in my life, but because of the clever, organic way the company integrated all aspects of my initial discussion into the presentation. 

For those in isolation, being heard is one of the most important things. You might even argue it’s part of the human condition. And ultimately, there’s nothing mundane about that. 

@glennsumi

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