Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: Reality in Cyber Space

In a world where a cyber identity and ingenious vlogs can boost a regular person to viral stardom, comes a play where three self-made video game critics rise to renown all while losing a grasp on reality. In Ben Ferber’s Let’s Play Play, a glimpse into the narrow world of Youtube video game critique is brought to the stage in a fowl-mouthed, lingo spewing three-hander.
Let’s Play Play follows three twenty-somethings, who I can only presume are addressed solely by their cyberspace persona, as they gain fame, sell out, and discover the harsh realities of their online fantasyland. It’s a play for the digital social media crazed society that tapped into a specific world to test the bonds of friendship. Ferber’s piece on the surface is poignant and a clever conceit. But the script keys into a very specific audience. The relationships were buried so deeply within the lingo that it’s very possible to miss moments and feel alienated and out of the loop. The Youtube celebrity phenomena goes beyond just the subsection of “Let’s Plays”. A non-gamer can easily be estranged. The nods to nostalgia were clever touches, but was not enough to pull the audience completely in. Intentional or not, the overlying theme of criticism and the arts was a clever ploy. Ferber’s dialogue, when the lingo was at a minimum, brought the vulgarity to a level 1000. The crudeness during the comment portions of the script were essential and realistic, but with so much cursing between the boys, it took away all weight. If the mission was to prove that an offensive insult or life threatening comment cuts deeper than the same remark from a friend, it didn’t land.
The trio of actors did their best to bring out a specific genre in the most accessible way possible. But as a whole, the trio seemed lost in the lingo as well. Brittany K. Allen is a superstar. She brought the most depth, and an insane amount of rap talent, to her character Bayes. The speed alone at which she was rapping was a show stopper. Nicki Minaj watch out! Like Allen, Zachary Clarence as Flood had sincerity. Clarence balanced his honest off-screen character with his Youtube persona to show the truth behind the icon. Emeka Nwafor as Dresher was high-octane from start to finish. Unlike Flood, Dresher adopted his celebrity into his reality. This made Nwafor’s performance a bit one-note.
Director Todd Brian Backus went full throttle with the energy and establishing the real and cyber worlds. Backus added some clever touches with the use of a light tablets to create the comment section. He kept the staging simple but with nearly every single scene featuring someone playing a video game, even the swap of controller couldn’t save it from being monotonous. Lighting designer Mary Heatwole did a wonderful job isolating and changing the look of the tiny space at Under St. Marks. This added touch truly aided the piece.
Let’s Play Play touches on a wonderful topic that is relevant. The themes are present but the execution was lacking. Finding a way to bring everyone into this piece will allow this play to be accessible and important.