Study Guide

Y2K

by Arthur Kopit

Y2K Summary

Introduction

Like some of Kopit’s other plays, Y2K is a social commentary with a hint of darkness. Through a computer, a man and wife, with a perhaps not highly moral sexual history, are thrown into another reality where everything they do or don’t do is blown out of proportion. The main action of the play is interrupted by the memory sequences of Costa Astrakhan, a self-centered teenager who, if not insane, is delighted by the power a computer can give him. While these sequences seem more like a sexual fantasy than reality, Astrakhan translates them into digital fact. The devastation to the married couple that follows is sudden and complete; while the Secret Service is aware of Astrakhan’s actions, Astrakhan himself seems to have escaped capture at the end of the play. While Y2K does touch on the horror of identity theft and the dangers of privacy invasion in the digital age, the main theme is how revenge (in this case, Astrakhan’s revenge upon Joseph, who has kicked Astrakhan out of his class) can take on a new form through technology. From his depiction of unscrupulous federal agents to his portrayal of an implacable computer hacker, Kopit shows that power corrupts. He places the focus on the abuse of authority, which happens simply because it is possible.

Y2K Summary

Astrakhan Enters
Y2K begins with Astrakhan in the spotlight on stage, stating that he is everywhere and on the hunt. Like the Greek chorus, Astrakhan introduces the play, explains the action, and concludes the drama.

Warehouse Scene
Secret Service agents Orin Slake and Dennis McAlvane have taken Joseph Elliot to an abandoned warehouse that smells of dead meat in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. Just as in classic spy thrillers when the person being interrogated is under a bright light, Joseph is sitting under a single bulb.

The two agents allow Joseph to call his lawyer but refuse to give him their names. Slake and McAlvane ask Joseph apparently nonsensical questions about names and whether he has had any contact with someone who calls himself ISeeU. Joseph says that neither he nor his wife Joanne is acquainted with anyone who has identified himself in that way.

Living Room Scene 1
Astrakhan declares that he can see everything and that no one can hide from him.

The spotlight moves to the Elliots. Joseph tries to tell Joanne about his interrogation, but she tells him about his daughter Emma’s receiving a crank call, which sounded as though it were in Joseph’s voice.

The lights return to Astrakhan. With increasing arrogance, Astrakhan states that he is a ‘‘Master of Downloading.’’ He admits to toying with others through his knowledge of computers.

As the action returns to the Elliots, Joseph explains his interrogation. Joanne reveals why she was unable to listen to Joseph earlier: she has had a run-in with her ex-husband, Francis Summerhays. An indication of Joseph’s mistrust of his wife surfaces as he questions her as to whether she is still in love with Francis. After Joanne reassures him, the couple embraces.

Astrakhan returns to the spotlight and gives details on Joanne’s history, including her supposed affair with Joseph while Joseph’s wife was dying of cancer. This is copyright of eNotes.

Office Interrogation
Slake and McAlvane appear in Joseph’s office, and their questions about his...

(The entire section is 886 words.)