Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Haley's 'The Nether' Is An Uncomfortable Ride

By Darlene Donloe

The Nether is a disturbing play. It makes you cringe. It makes you uncomfortable. It’s dark. It even makes you want to turn away, but you can’t. You have to watch it until the end to see how it plays out.

The show, written by accomplished playwright, Jennifer Haley, is now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. Haley was the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner for The Nether.

The Nether takes place in the near future where people can explore and participate in virtual reality worlds, made by other users.  That sounds a bit crazy, but the notion actually comes together nicely on the stage.

The Nether is a future incarnation of the internet in which someone’s fantasy can become as real as reality. People can make it what they want. They can make their situations better, or they can walk on the wild side.  And, while in a virtual world thing may not be real – the emotions and connections created in that world – are. In this particular case – people are straddling the line and/or crossing it altogether, depending on one’s perspective.

The question becomes about boundaries and whether it’s wrong if it’s a fantasy.

So, the show opens up with a detective named Morris, played intently by Jeanne Syquia, interrogating a businessman named Sims (Robert Joy), about his time on the internet (the nether) and the location of his server, which would allow them to enter his realm.  This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Sims, who is more than annoyed at being questioned and doesn’t find anything wrong with what he’s doing.

The detective next interviews Doyle, a middle school science teacher near retirement, played by Dakin Matthews. He’s being questioned about his escapades in a virtual world called the Hideaway. 

This is where the play gets really seedy and creepy. Sims has created this world for men who are attracted to little girls.  To get to that world the men put on a high-tech headset and some glasses and they can enter a world where they can meet girls like 13-year-old Iris, who encourages them to act out their desires, including chopping her up with an axe after they’ve had their way.  The catch is, no one ever dies in The Nether. Iris reappears right after being killed.

It’s all too sorted, stimulating and offensive.

Doyle refuses to help the detective. He respects Sims and the world he has created.

One intense scene has Iris (Brighid Fleming) removing her dress while her mature suitor Woodnut, played with finesse by Adam Haas Hunter, watching and then moving her gently to the bed before the stage goes to black.

You could have cut the uneasiness in the audience at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, with a knife.

Director Neel Keller has amassed a first rate cast to tackle such a provocative script. Everyone in the show delivers an incredible performance.

The staging is also impressive. It’s a revolving, two-tier set that is more than effective and keeps the show moving (literally) at a comfortable pace.

The Nether, directed by Neel Keller and written by Jennifer Haley, stars Brighid Fleming, Adam Haas Hunter, Robert Joy, Dakin Matthews and Jeanne Syquia.

Kudos to all!

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother) O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Nether gets an E (excellent).

The Nether, Center Theatre Group at Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232. Tues.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., through April 14. Tickets: $20-50. 213-628-2772.

All The Nether production photos by Craig Schwartz.

1 comment:

  1. A Fan's Cut

    This is my blog on how Great Films Could Have Been Made Differently.

    if you have time then please take a look.

    I'm also looking to collaborate with a screenwriter.

    Comments are welcome

    Sorry for disturbing,thanks.