To those unfamiliar with online role-playing games, their participants’ electronic adventuring might seem of little interest. But area playwright Allan Maule’s “EverScape” explores the psychology behind such games’ obsessive appeal, as well as their real dangers. Bare Theatre’s impressive production is funny and moving, one of its best in recent seasons.
The plot concerns four gamers who’ve teamed up to play EverScape. Gil and Devo work together in tech support. Kirin is an aspiring artist working as a barista. Foster is a partner in a design firm. The game allows them escape from their employment, relationship and money woes, while giving them feelings of accomplishment.
When the EverScape company announces that the team that reaches the game’s top level will be hired as game designers, the four begin spending every possible moment on that quest, causing life-changing events for all of them.
Chris Hinton confidently projects Gil’s cold, aggressive personality and the wounded soul beneath. His dramatic outpourings near play’s end show admirable range. Sean A. Brosnahan gives Devo great heart and humanity, especially touching in his determined pursuit of Kirin.
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Samantha Corey vividly conveys Kirin’s bitterness over her aborted design school application, gaining sympathy when having to move back home. Areon Mobasher’s intense loner Foster reveals the depths of gamers’ addiction to winning.
The show takes place on a bare stage, with just four rolling office chairs and a few props. Heather J. Strickland’s vibrant direction keeps the pace snappy but also allows humor and emotion their due.
The online battle sequences, choreographed with amazing precision by Jason Bailey, are greatly enhanced by Brett Stegall’s lighting and G. Todd Buker’s sound effects. Four additional actors (Hilary Edwards, Tara Nicole Williams, Matt Fields and George Labusohr) do yeoman’s duties as customers, relatives and, particularly, game characters, their weapon slinging athletic, their sudden deaths amusing.
The script offers astute insights into what escapism does for the soul, but also demonstrates its toll on social interaction and life skills.
There’s a lot of game jargon to digest and sometimes the quick character changes can be confusing. None of that, however, should keep anyone from enjoying the production and from gaining better understanding of what role-playing games are all about.
What: “EverScape,” presented by Bare Theatre
Where: Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 7-8, 13-15, 20-22; 2 p.m. Oct. 9, 16, 23
Tickets: $18 (seniors/military $15; students $10)
Info: 919-803-3798 or baretheatre.org