Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Not Game Over

By Michael Block

The video game worlds collide in this interactive adventure aptly named The Video Games. Though it may be hard to form a coherent semblance of plot, creators Jared Tyrel Pixler and David Evan Stolworthy mix genres by placing a bunch of your video game favorites in a fight to the death. Call The Video Games "Super Smash Brothers" meets "The Hunger Games." Continuing the surging geek theater trend, The Video Games is an exceptionally smart concept. It is desperately seeking guidance and a strong outside perspective to assist to bring in a stronger plot and character development. A script doctor if you will. This is a work of theater. Audiences need substance. With the crowd-pleasing element of feeling a part of the show, Pixler and Stolworthy put the power in the audiences' hands to chose the outcome.  By putting the outcome in the hands of the audience, the excitement factor is off the charts. That means it needs to feel unpredictable. It's clear that there were certain outcomes that were planned and thusly felt stage. Once the audience catches on, the game is over. Finding a way to combat this is incredibly hard but it is essential for this show to get an extra life.
With multiple tracks to memorize, this giant company was kept on their toes. Whether it was the Fringe experience it just telling of the material, there was an overall sense of discomfort from the cast. The play just needed to be tighter. From an acting standpoint, there were some duds but many standouts. Those who happened to pick up an accent got lost in fiction causing their performances to suffer. The star of this show was Amber Lawson. Lawson's Jigglypuff was a brilliant character execution. She created a unique persona of a well-established creature that you didn't actually hate. Her high-pitched screech stole the show. As Mario, JP Rapozo put a new spin on the little Italian hero. But if it took you a moment to identify who he was supposed to be, you're not alone. Of the competitors, Mega Man, played by Cody Jordan, Chloe Malaise's Yuna and our night's victor Pikachu, performed by Amanda Newman, were some of the highlights.
The Video Games desires a director. Those cues need to be picked up. From a design perspective, we merely saw what a bare bones production. The potential on a big budget is extraordinary. To start, the costumes from Courtney Lucas and Brandon Pugmire must go further. Being reminiscent of the human characters through color is not enough. And sporting brand logos is inexcusable. Where the costumes did succeed was the transformation with characters like Jigglypuff and Donkey Kong. They were perfectly creative. The soundtrack of video game scores, from "Tetris" to "Pacman" was a great touch. For the future, if you're going to go interactive, show it through projections. Let the audience see the live voting. Show us gamer stats. Video games are visual. The show must match.
The Video Games is one of those shows that if the creators were willing to improve on the product and you had the money to invest, you should write a check. There is great room for progress. With mostly fighting characters, maybe reevaluating the players may be useful. Dive into the world of well-known characters through history like Crash Bandicoot. Give more cameos and references. The Video Games deserves an extra life. It's marketable.

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