Theatre Fail: Dark Play


Imagine, if you will (or can), that Braid Paisley's Online had been written by a punk rock band with more than usual teenage angst and you'll be pretty close to both the theme and mood of Dark Play, or Stories for Boys. The premise it starts with, that you can be anything you want to online, including someone else, is intriguing and is definitely ripe for discussion. And, when the play begins, you think it has promise. A young kid, Nick, bored and lonely, starts inventing online characters to pass the time. He invents one, a girl, built to suit an ad posted by Adam about falling in love. Of course, Nick ends up becoming emotionally and erotically attached to this stranger. To get his fix, he inserts himself into the half-real world as the younger brother of Adam's fictional love. And then, it spirals down from there. It's an example of dark play, in which one player knows the rules to a game and the others have no idea they're playing at all. This is the conceit at least, one that makes me suspect the playwright finds himself exceptionally clever. Epseically since the idea is shared by a drama teacher in the middle of the play itself.

By the end, the conclusions and dramatic steps that have been taken are so absurd, you'd assume you're watching farce. But there's no humor to be had here, so you're just left not feeling much of anything. I suppose it's disturbing, but the realism it lacks takes the edge off of that and you don't feel sorry for anyone involved, so there's not even pathos to be pointed to. Nor do questions hang in the air afterwards, which a play focusing on a situation like this should engender. It's a weakness of criticism to fault something for being what it wasn't intending to be, but I think we're supposed to be troubled by the both hyper-realness and irreality of the online world after seeing this play. Which we would be, if the action played out in a way that was, well, believable.

The acting, however, was uniformly excellent, even if the main actor was channelling Jess Mariano in disturbing verisimilitude. The small cast even played different roles, a nice variation on the theme that people can't be trusted to present their real self when other options exist. Though, their skills are cast against a backdrop of computer monitors hanging from the ceiling, a sure sign that this production wants to be very hip, very now. Which, along with the content about teenage sexuality, makes the play feel very edgy. Unfortunately, though, it seems like the play was put on because it was edgy, a good indicator that it'll get praise even though it's just not that good.

Overall, I don't want my ninety minutes back, or even the money I spent. To re-cast a line by Nick, though, "if this is what theatre feels like, I want to see less of it every day."


Seagulljaap said...

The acting, however, was uniformly excellent, even if the main actor was channelling Jess Mariano in disturbing verisimilitude.

Only every girl in the United States or you or I would say a line like this.

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