Game Play, The Video Game Theater Festival Week 4: Game Over

Review

And so another theatre festival comes to an end. Game Play finished this past Saturday with much pomp and Rock Band Karaoke. I want to congratulate the Brick on another amazing month of theatre and wish them continued success in housing adventurous, interesting work. May the Brick always be a haven for those too awkward to go commercial.

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I have two shows left to review. Reader, much like Vanessa William’s boyfriend, I have definitely saved the best for last.

Son of Pong
Written and Performed by John DeVore
Directed by Michael Gardner

Son of Pong is a one-man show written and performed by John DeVore in which he recounts memories of his Atari-loving father.

DeVore himself has little love for video games. He describes Frogger as an “environmentalist nightmare” and refers to Mario as a “grotesque Italian leprechaun trapped in Hell.” DeVore recalls how his father — who is extremely likable by DeVore’s own account — would spend hours devouring the best that late 1970s technology had to offer (a lot of wood paneling was involved) while DeVore himself would struggle to understand the appeal. Eventually, with heart-breaking clarity DeVore comes to terms with his late father’s passion while dealing with his own growing sense of mortality.

DeVore is an engaging storyteller with a neurotic, deadpan delivery. His performance is brave and naked, allowing the audience to see the uglier aspects of his own character to get the full tale across. Above all, DeVore humanizes gaming in a way rarely seen in pop-culture. By looking at video games through an outsider’s perspective, DeVore brings an amazing amount of compassion to a medium he is just starting to understand.

Brain Explode!
Written by Stephen Aubrey, Danny Bowes, and Richard Lovejoy
Directed by Paige Blansfield

This show probably had the most successful run out of all the shows in the festival, and with good reason. In my professional critical view, this show was freaking awesome.

The action follows Ray Pinter (Stephen Hesket) a video game designer trapped in a text RPG with sixty minutes to finish before a chip in his brain explodes. Members of the audience help Ray solve puzzles and advance forward while secrets from Ray’s past come to light. Much like BioShock, the moral choices made during the course of the game determine the show’s ultimate outcome: the “good” ending, the “bad” ending, the “tolerable” ending, and the “soul-crushing despair” ending (at the closing night performance all of the alternate endings were played).

Did I mention this show is awesome? Because it is. The team of writers crafted not just a tense, exciting story arc but have also infused the play with rich back-story. Due to the improvisational nature of the play, it was also funny as hell. Brain Explode! is absolutely exciting and engrossing, and hopefully, due to its enthusiastic reception, might have life beyond Game Play.

In conclusion: awesome.

And that’s it. Game Play, everybody. I’m done with theatre festivals for a while, but as The Mary Sue’s Senior Theaterologist (a title I am proud to have given myself) I will always be there to relay the latest geek-inspired theatrical happenings. After all, if we geeks cannot find a refuge in theatre — the most outcasty of outcast professions — then we are doomed.

Amanda LaPergola tweets @LaPergs. If she could be any video game character, she’d be a sword.


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