JANE AUSTIN MEETS CYRANO - “LOVE AND WARCRAFT” IS MORE THAN A VIDEO GAME
MILLENNIALS LACK OF REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
MAKES FOR PERFECT VIDEO GAME LOVE.
Custom Made Theatre Company continues season 17 at their new venue on Sutter Street in the Union Square area. CMTC presents the Bay Area premiere of "In Love and Warcraft" by Madhuri Shekar. It is an engaging, well crafted, satiric high tech comedy skillfully acted and well directed by the James Nelson, and it runs through December 12th.
CMTC artistic director Brian Katz says it is easy to see Evie as our everyman “The moment I heard about this play I immediately wanted to produce it. What’s better than a rom-com that is absolutely current (set in the exploding world of online gaming), but also has its roots in classical comedy? Shekar is the real deal. Her dialogue sparkles, the situations she sets up are hysterical, and on top of that the play has real heart. The gaming world is just the skin in which this play is wrapped. Our director, James Nelson, has told his cast that in the end it is about intimacy, and I completely agree. I think everyone can relate to Evie’s journey because she faces one of our greatest fears and, in trying to overcome it, finds what can be our greatest joy in life.”
Nelson has assembled a talented young cast who add the perfect timing to the high tech game babble and subtext of millennials lack of real life relationships. The very talented Monica Ho plays Evie the Cyrano virtual Buddha to lost lovers. Evie is a talented word master, who just happens to be a virgin, and is a college senior who thinks she has relationships all figured out. Her side job is writing love letters for friends and she is top ranked in the “World of Warcraft” guild. Her online boyfriend Ryan is played by local favorite Drew Reitz who brings “Tank” damaged love to the line in the first act.
It is not often we see a “nerd” character in a story not being treated as a farce or being bullied, Evie is a fully realized tragic hero. Madhuri Shekar’s script is tight and very funny at times. It captures each of its characters, including Kitty Evie’s sex crazed roommate (Laura Espino, who owns the stage in every one of her scenes). Raul played by Ed Berkeley, is one of Evie’s customers who falls for her and the romantic comedy rolls on. This is Evie’s first “IRL” in real life relationship and Ho is very skilled at the roller coaster madness this creates for her character.
Both Raul and Ryan are sympathetic real characters and Shekar’s script sets them up as fully formed two dimensional characters. The comic scenes are perfect including the sidebar short scenes featuring Amanda Farbstein and talented Sal Mattos. One of Shekar’s humorous moments includes Evie’s gynecological bout with her doctor. She wonders if she is broken since she fears real penetration. Ho has the best comic timing and passion as Evie experiences her first orgasm on her doctors table. It reminded me of Sarah Ruhls “The Vibrator Play” but with a better connect based on a blossoming of sorts. Rauls presence becomes more important now and the reality game is in full mode, especially when he opens up about his passion for cross dressing. Ed Berkeley is a charmer as Raul and his flirt sessions with Evie are some of the highlights of the first act. Sal Mattos who plays a number of side roles including the glam hair stylist has some great entrances.
The second act is colorful and entertaining as all the actors enter the Warcraft “Game”. As in typical romantic sitcom fashion, all the leads need to find themselves. It is a great design by Devin Kasper with doors and break away walls to play the game. Maxx Kurzunski's lights are a highlight during the gaming scenes. At opening night the lighting hit a snag when the company learned their light board went missing and the show had to be reprogrammed before curtain time. Yet Kurzunski's lights did their magic even with some shadowy dark moments. The sound design by Liz Ryder captures all the natural sound one hears while gaming and was perfect. But the highlight of this production team is Brooke Jennings costumes, as the company shows off some brilliant virtual looks from warriors to monsters and fish. In this girl meets boy and girl awakening geek festival, director Nelson has mixed a nice human game reality with a very funny important and touching script from Shekar. “In Love and Warcraft” is fun, nerdy and by the end, darkly poignant. This is the perfect holiday treat on the eve of the new STAR WARS film, this will keep your geeky gamer pals all smiles til the force opens in December.
Custom Made Theatre Presents
In Love and Warcraft
By Madhuri Shekar
winner of the Alliance/Kendeda MFA Playwriting Award
Directed by James Nelson
Starring Monica Ho (TBA Awards Finalist for Shiner)
With Ed Berkeley, Laura Espino,
Amanda Farbstein, Sal Mattos, and Drew Reitz
Closes, December 12th , 2015
Running Time: One hour thirty minutes with no intermission.
Custom Made Theatre 533 Sutter St.
(at Powell) in San Francisco
(Former home of SF Playhouse and Tides Theatre)
CLICK HERE TICKETS http://www.custommade.org/box-office-2/
All photos by Jay Yamada