Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: A Heroic Saga

Geek theater is on the rise. Bringing those characters and shows and games onto the stage is allowing a new genre to flourish. In EverScape, the world of role-playing is brought to life as four heroes try to defeat the game while defeating life itself. Written by Allan Maule, EverScape is a stunning visual explosion that brings the gaming world to life. With clear inspirations from "World of Warcraft" and games of the like, EverScape literally puts the players in the game as we watch them fight for victory. As they battle, we get a glimpse into their personal lives and relationships. Devo and Gil are buddies in game and out, working together as IT pros. Kirin is a graphic artists with a dream. And Foster is the gaming vet that we don't get to know much about. The play is at its finest through the action sequences. They're lively and expertly tell the necessary story congruently. The moments where the momentum stops is through the expositional monologues and direct addresses. Finding a more active way to share the information will work in the piece's favor. The only disappointing thing about losing these moments are the stunning stage pictures created by director Ashley Gunsteens and her ensemble. What makes this piece special is Maule's ability to allow those unfamiliar with the gaming world to understand. And it's all due to the character development. There's not much of it, but what is there is strong. The journeys are present but they could go further especially with Foster. There is a reveal late in the play that explains a lot but with a great character comes great desire to want to know more.
EverScape was greatly aided by a phenomenal ensemble. From top to bottom, this group dazzled. The quartet that made up the players were solid. Firstly, Phil Gillen rules. Gillen is a natural with a charming ease about him. Devo is slightly geeky yet heroic. Gillen was just that. As the sole Gamer girl, Ivy Croteau was great. Croteau's Kirin had bite that allowed her to hold her own. As resident douche, Michael Rehse nailed the persona. Beginning with a moment of homage to the infamous YouTube legend LeeRoy Jenkins, Rehse was perfectly obnoxious. Tim Heller as wise sage Foster was wizardly. The four-piece ensemble comprised of Ariel Cruz, Sean Dube, Meg Mark, and Jacob Williams did a stellar job.
It is very possible with the wrong person in control, EverScape could fail. Fortunately it was guided by the expert vision of director Ashley Gunsteens. Her strong vision and intricate attention to detail carried the show. Gunsteens allowed the action to be fast-paced and the staging to be innovative. But Gunsteens was not alone in bringing EverScape to life. The brilliant choreography by fight choreographer Michael Hagins and movement and dance co-choreographers Adam Davidson and Julia Adle allowed the show to level up. Hagins made the tight space work for the eight actors. There was imminent danger present in the fights that made them all the more exciting. Davidson and Adle offered a poetic and lyrical vocabulary to the stage that truly made the company shine. The costumes by Elana Knitel focused on a basic black with colorful accessory additions. It was simple for this version of the play. You can only imagine what a bigger production would look like. Lighting designer Joseph Amodei and sound designer Travis Wright gave the show a much-desired boost. The use of color and underscoring gave EverScape that distinct touch.
EverScape is on its way to greatness. There’s some book work that needs finessing to beyond that, this show used the festival to showcase the strength of the production.