Coming to a neighborhood exactly like your own…
Theater Schmeater’s latest endeavor, “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” written by Jennifer Haley, toys with the idea that virtual reality can become reality. The play tells the tales of screen-addicted teens and follows their progress in a videogame set in their own suburban neighborhood. As they become more consumed by the videogame, “Neighborhood 3”, the harder it becomes to distinguish their actions in the videogame from those in real life.
Neighborhood 3 takes a turn for the twisted when the game turns family members against one another. Emotions flare up in several scenes when teenagers finally reconnect with their parents that the videogame had effectively cut them off from, giving the actors the opportunity to introduce incredible intensity to the stage. In one scene, Chris Shea and Alexei Cifrese give a startling performance as father and son. In an attempt to confront and comfort his son (Cifrese), the suburban dad (Shea) realizes his son’s demons are much darker than he anticipated. Upon realizing he is of no help to his son, conflict ensues that barely stops short of physical, making for an intense and exciting scene to witness.
The set of this performance was one of its highlights. A projector took the place of a traditional, consistent, backdrop. The projector was used to continuously change the play’s setting, simulating the limitlessness that initially draws players to virtual realities. A green grid pattern was also flashed on the walls of the entire theater, placing the audience in the videogame. This served to blur the lines between reality and virtual reality throughout the play. This stylistic choice by set designer Reiko Huffman provokes the audience to consider how much time must be spent on a screen for a virtual reality to become reality. Huffman’s set perfectly highlights the production’s purpose.
Through all the darkness on stage some humor was able to shine through. The cast was able to lift the audience’s spirits and provide some comedy to balance out the horror. This came in the form of dad jokes, awkward parent-to-teenager interactions, and a geeky costume. Chad Oswald, who plays Blake and Blake’s online avatar, makes for a very believable adolescent boy. Oswald serves up an endearingly uncomfortable Blake who dodges advances by his promiscuous female counterparts and dons full body “armor” for his final chapter in his Neighborhood 3 videogame. Oswald, resembling a trick-or-treater on Halloween, triggered some giggles throughout the audience.
My only complaint is the lack of zombies. However, this did not detract from the wicked performance that the cast of Neighborhood 3 delivered. This cast is overall a group of strong actors with the ability to create a tense and exciting environment within the theater.
Neighborhood 3: Requistion of Doom, by Jennifer Haley, Theater Schmeater, 2125 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, September 22 through October 14, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm. Tickets: http://n3rd.brownpapertickets.com info: http://schmee.org/season/2017/neighborhood-3-requisition-doom or (206) 324-5801