Theater Review: In Everscape, a Gripping Collision of Real and Online Worlds | Arts

Theater Review: In Everscape, a Gripping Collision of Real and Online Worlds


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Through October 23
Sonorous Road Theater, Raleigh

The reason I got out of database interface design? Those all-night coding sessions felt more and more like out-of-body experiences the longer they went on. Manipulating constructs in a weightless, three-dimensional environment was fun; it felt like stepping off the planet and the clock. But re-entry into an exhausted, sluggish body afterward became progressively problematic over time. Then I began wishing that I didn’t have to—re-enter, that is. That’s when I knew I had to quit.

I’ve always seen more than a tinge of bait-and-switch in popular multiplayer games like the one depicted in Allan Maule’s drama EverScape, now making its regional premiere in a joint staging by Bare Theatre and Sonorous Road Productions one year after taking honors at the New York Fringe Festival. It redefines irony when such mediated worlds provide online avatars with virtually enhanced bodies, as their interfaces render the actual bodies of their players increasingly inert and out of shape.

Foster (Areon Mobasher), the leader of a group we follow online and off through this tale, asserts that gaming’s just a matter of context: “Our grandparents went to the movies, our parents slept in front of the TV,” he notes at the start. But were the lives of either generation so thoroughly bifurcated as the quartet we meet here? In Maule’s closely reasoned discourse, it’s telling when real and online worlds begin to sabotage each other, as contrived abilities (for qualities like magic, healing, and destruction) granted players in the game are achieved through disabling choices in reality.

Gil (Chris Hinton) is a savvy young chaotician who effortlessly disrupts the best-laid battle plans, but his job performance is seriously slipping. Under Heather J. Strickland’s direction, Samantha Corey’s kick-ass Kirin amusingly populates her otherworld with zombified customers and coworkers at her coffee shop workplace, but her vulnerability is real when algorithmically guaranteed online rewards keep distracting her from the less certain outcomes of a project that just might get her into design school.

When a work feels this brief after ninety minutes, I encourage the playwright to explore some of the surfaces he’s barely scratched. And though online and real worlds blur into each other in Maule’s script, the lack of borderlines isn’t always functional in Strickland’s staging. Still, for the second time this fall, Sonorous Road has presented a work specifically aimed at a demographic no other theater in the region is addressing. Like the couple in Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, the characters in EverScape are millennials struggling to come into their own. Disturbingly, they find a dystopian, eternal war zone preferable to the world in which they actually live.

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