Game Play Theater Festival: Plays About Games! Week One

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Hey, a week has gone by. It must be time for another geek-themed theater festival from our friends at The Brick. This past June, the venerable Brooklyn institution showcased a plethora of plays inspired by comic books. This month, it’s Game Play: a festival for video games. Video games! Fudge yeah!

I will admit, I have been looking forward to Game Play, not necessarily due to my love of indie theatre (which is indeed great). You see, Chinatown Fair, Manhattan’s last true video arcade closed earlier this year, and I need something to ease the pain. Yes, I know it’s been five months. I’m still mourning.

I used to while away many a pleasant afternoon strolling down Mott Street, a sugary purchase from Ten Ren in one hand and a fistful of tokens in the other. Oh, how the hours would pass in the furious wrangling of joysticks and abuse of buttons. How my fingers would bruise and blister under the duress of special moves and ultra combos (such injured digits were never happier!). That sweaty, L-shaped box seemed like unto a paradise to me, offering all manner of electronical delights, and now…

What has become of those halcyon days? Chinatown Fair: how I yearn for thee. I miss thy quarters cramped, thy denizens of customs awkward, and thy perfumed air, heady with the musk of stale sodas and body odor. And, alas, the games! The glorious games! Cabinets of Delight, who enjoys ye now? Who is there to caress ye with touches most rough and tender? Who will worship and enjoy ye with a reference most deserving? O, Fair most fair! The gods have ripped thee too soon from this once-happy globe! Thou art gone and all is darkness! All is woe!

It’s been a bit of an adjustment.

My pain will ease, eventually. Someday. In the meantime I, as The Mary Sue’s Senior Theaterologist, shall bring you unbiased coverage of Game Play’s various offerings, for your consumption and enjoyment. Let us proceed.

Modal Kombat
Developed by Evan Drummond and David Hindman

I envy Evan Drummond and David Hindman their genius. These two Yalies have employed their considerable knowledge of music and gaming technology into creating interactive, guitar-controlled video game spectacle. Yes, I know what you are thinking, and no, it’s nothing like that. These guys play classics like Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat and Pong using actual, honest-to-goodness string guitars.

In a series of “movements” Drummond and Hindman duet live onstage, while a screened projection allows the audience to see how their playing effects the game. In Mortal Kombat, for example, simple plucking manipulates basic punches and kicks, while strummed chords unleash projectiles and other special moves. Think of it as dueling banjos, with Fatalities.

The matches between Drummond and Hindman are entertaining alone, but the real fun happens during Team Tetris. In this part of the show, two audience volunteers control the direction of the falling bricks with the guitars, while another determines the rotation with a Wii remote. The rest of the audience shouts instructions, and the end result is a cacophony of screams, groans and tuneless chords. It is an exercise in gaming democracy that may not yield high scores but is a hell of a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, Modal Kombat’s run at Game Play ended this past Sunday, but check out the website for more info on future performances. If you have the chance to see this awesome, innovative show, take it. You will not regret your decision.

Stay tuned for more reviews, and do not forget to visit the Brick’s website for information about the entire festival. Game Play will not last forever. All good things must end, whether we want them to, or not… woe…

Amanda LaPergola tweets @LaPergs

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