Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom
by Jennifer Haley
What is happening in the suburbs? Lines blur between fact and fantasy as parents find their teenagers addicted to an online horror game that is turning them into misguided militants. Fear has a life of its own in this theatrical tale of real and imagined zombies, not only in the game but in the eyes of the neighbors. Award-winning playwright Jennifer Haley's apocalyptic vision combines virtual role-playing, GPS technology, teenage alienation and the "family next door" to create this provocative psychological thriller. A true Twilight Zone for the 21st century.
Dad - John Pierson*
Mom - Pam Reckamp*
Daughter - Maggie Conroy
Son - Greg Fenner
Sean Savoie - Lighting
Mark Wilson - Scenery
Bonnie Taylor - Costumes
Chuck Harper – Sound
2009 Kevin Kline Award Nominations:
Best Sound Design - Chuck Harper
Best Lighting Design - Sean Savoie
"In Haley's imaginary game, adults are zombies that teenagers need to kill to save their own lives. The writer is not exactly breaking new ground here. But she endows the play with enough modern style and eerie aesthetics to make its current production, at HotCity Theatre, fun and provocative."
"The kids play a dangerous online game that their parents scarcely understand. It's surreal, but real-world parallels shouldn't pose a big obstacle to anyone who knows a little Freud. Thanks to four committed performers, and to playwright Harper, "Neighborhood 3" makes for absorbing theater.
It's an especially intriguing choice for parents and teens to take in together. The conversation afterward could be spectacular."
- Judy Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Well, don't look now, but it's coming from inside your own house, in Jennifer Haley's gripping, bizarre horror story. Four actors race through a break-neck series of costume changes to populate a faceless suburban street in Anytown, USA. The teenagers there have been overcome by a popular computer game that blurs the line between the real and virtual worlds, with consequences that can scarcely be described.
The sense of dread is supplied, not just by the dank and turgid background noise (so essential to any dark video game, I suppose), but also by the strange sense of entrapment that pervades every scene. Each of those scenes is a two-person affair, with one party being uneasy or gathering their suspicions, while the other seems to be spinning a web of intrigue around them, capturing them word by word. In my notes I have the phrase, "people keep ensnaring each other!" This helps set up the violent freak-out to come, with bloodstains that appear and suddenly disappear from walls, and doormats that may say either "Welcome" or "Help Me" from moment to moment. There's also plenty of humor in the early going, and plenty of examples of where our Levittown neighborhoods themselves seem created precisely for the post-neo-gothic scenario.
Pamela Reckamp is outstanding as a series of suburban moms, vaguely aware of their kids' online distractions, in one case torn between respecting her son's privacy and a girl's insistence that she break into his bedroom. John Pierson plays a tremendous variety of dads and other grown men with supreme agility. Everyone knows "the grizzled mystery man," the stock character from horror stories, and after all of Mr. Pierson's touchy-feely, awkward and humorous appearances earlier in the evening, it is this odd, quiet, warning character that really takes our breath away. Maggie Conroy plays all the girls on the block, some nice and some very odd and disconcerting, in a way that just slightly levitates above the school-aged scandals of our daily papers. And Greg Fenner does nicely as the boys, earnest and easily consumed by adventure, until things begin to go wrong, when he kicks up the scary to unexpected heights. Each actor presents a dazzling aspect, or two or three, throughout the evening.
"Chuck Harper directs this eighty-minute nightmare, though it's so densely packed with detail and filled with strange lighting and sound effects, that it seems more like a full two-hour adventure. And techies Catherine Krummey and Erin Keller scurry on and off with lightning efficiency during the blackouts, setting up the next scenes of confounding wariness to follow. If you think you can never be scared again, this show will certainly eat away at your own smug security."
"... you've got yourself a surprisingly compelling, all-encompassing fright-fest."
- Richard Green, KDHX Radio
Seeing Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom could serve as a wake-up call, or even a cautionary tale, for some parents, since it examines the addictive qualities and violent nature of certain video games. Of course, it takes that idea to a Twilight-Zone extreme, but that's what makes it so engaging. Hot City Theatre is presenting a superbly mounted production of this intriguing work, and I think it's required viewing.
Chuck Harper's direction is inspired, combining the action and intensity of a video game with the drama you'd expect from such a topical issue. Harper's sound design aids immeasurably layering pitch-altered narration over industrial ambiance to great effect before each scene (or level in the game). Mark Wilson contributes a very cool and starkly realized set that really brings out the gaming influence. Sean Savoie's excellent lighting adds immensely, with some fiendishly clever use of blacklight. Scott Briehan's costumes add the final touch, neatly delineating each character. There's even an FX gag that's executed to shocking perfection.
Jennifer Haley's script is a brilliant piece of social satire, and Hot City Theatre has put together a truly exceptional production that does this play complete justice.
- Chris Gibson, Broadway World
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