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GENERATION XBOX

  

picture - The FootageTheater Review

by Andrew Turner

published November 14, 2008

 

The Footage

now playing Off Broadway at The Flea

through November 30

 

What do you get when you cross a band of twenty-something slackers with a massive multiplayer online role playing game that includes three love triangles, a kidnap scenario, and a sociopath with delusions of grandeur? Quite a lot, actually. So much so, in fact, that for the first twenty minutes of playwright Joshua Scher’s The Footage, currently playing at the Flea Theatre in downtown Manhattan, you find yourself on sensory overload. Who are all these people? Why do they remind me of people I went to college with? And are we supposed to feel sorry for the girl on the screen being sodomized with the vibrator or is it all a joke?

 

The good news is, it doesn’t take too long for all these disparate elements to start coming together, and by the end of the evening you’re left with a performance that’s ambitious, amusing, poignant and fun.

 

The plot revolves around two groups.  One is a band of roommates fresh out of college. When they are not drinking and playing video games, you’ll find them drinking and playing … wait a second, that’s all they seem to do. And all to the disgust of their female roommate, Lauren, who maintains an online blog in which she rails against the masturbatory excesses of society. The second group consists of two catty roommates and an adopted teenage runaway with a shadowy past. They have a secret in their basement – one that could either make them famous or get them killed. Or just go away, given people’s short attention spans these days.

 

The groups are connected in two ways. First through an online game called “Hellcraft” (modeled after the popular game “Warcraft”), in which people interact through their avatars in a fantasy setting. Kudos to Room 404 Media, the group responsible for the amazing video effects. Although it’s a blatant South Park ripoff, it’s still fun to see a giant warrior named Hrothgar say, “Mayhap you should suck it.” The other way the groups are connected is through the footage of a nubile, young kidnap victim, whose torture trials are uploaded nightly onto YouTube. The characters wonder: is the footage real or staged? And in our society, where anybody can go online and pretend to be somebody else, what’s the difference?

 

It’s an important moral, but one that’s never pounded over the audience’s head. Scher’s script is both topical and fun, crammed full of hip cultural references, relevant without being preachy. The resident actors of the Flea all deliver strong performances (which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, considering they’re a bunch of twenty-somethings fresh out of college asked to play a bunch of twenty-somethings fresh out of college.  A word of warning, however - if you’re above the age of 40, and you don’t use Skype, Facebook, or YouTube, you might feel a little lost. It only took a few minutes for the sexagenarian to my right to fall into a deep sleep. But if you’re under 40, know the difference between an elf and a dwarf, and, like 99% of Generation X-Box, spend at least half your day plugged into some sort of media, then head to The Flea, smuggle in your favorite beer and enjoy.  Wii controller not provided.

 

andrewturner @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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