Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Nether

Play #128 - The Nether by Jennifer Haley

This is sort of a cool, unintentional circle of life moment: when I set myself the task at the beginning of 2015 to read one play for every day (a goal of which I have fallen quite short), I started with Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley. So it seems quite fitting that I would finish the year with another play by the same writer.

The Nether takes place "soon" in two locations: an interrogation room and an online world called The Hideaway. In the world of this play, human existence has shifted in large part to the online realm. The real world still exists, but most functions - jobs, education, etc. - happen online. There are even people who make the decision to cross over permanently into the online realm, living offline via life support as their online lives become their real lives. Haley gives us Detective Morris who is investigating Mr. Sims for the online realm that he has created called The Hideaway. It is a place that replicates an 1800s home, and that gives people the opportunity to live without consequences - in particular, as they might pertain to certain proclivities towards children. Morris argues that the behaviors perpetrated there are unacceptable, whereas Sims claims that, since even the "children" are actually adults in the real world, there is no real impropriety.

The play is, like Neighborhood 3, an unsettling investigation of the implications of the intersection of real and virtual life. The twists and turns leave the audience wondering themselves where the boundaries of these worlds - and of human connection - truly lie. There are parts of this play that would, doubtless, be difficult to watch. It's interesting that Haley asks that the actress who plays the virtual girl actually be or seem pre-pubescent, rather than an adult actress playing young. While this might be upsetting for some, Haley argues that the presence of a young performer on stage will assure the audience that the production itself will not go over the line with this character - that the character will never be in real danger. Whereas, with an adult actor, that assumption might not be the case. I suppose she's right, but I also can't help imagining the squirming in our collective seats that might unfold. Luckily, I don't have to imagine! Woolly Mammoth is staging this show in April! I can't wait to see how the drained, technologically centered "real" world and the lush, sensuous "fake" world come to life on stage!

And though I didn't make it to 365... and though I didn't get a chance to do much reading of novels... I would say that 128 plays is not all that shabby!

No comments:

Post a Comment