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D.C. Arts Center
Friday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 19 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m.
A psychologically addictive video game emulates players’ actual neighborhoods as the on-screen environment. Moving from one level to the next means destroying armies of zombies. But what does it mean for the neighbors who aren’t playing the game?
Though Molotov Theatre Group is known for their Grand Guignol-inspired horror, at the top of the show I was more afraid of a trite “violent video games are dangerous” narrative than anything else. Gamers of Capital Fringe, let me soothe your fears right now: This show will scare you in a much more nuanced and valuable way. Rising above a simple condemnation of kids and their games, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom thrills and shocks as the cul-de-sac crumbles.
Neighborhood 3 (watch a trailer here) offers a large catalog of suburban hells. Instead of heaping every flaw on a single demented family, playwright Jennifer Haley spreads the misfortune over an entire cul-de-sac. Thanks to this rotation of unhappy families, there is always a fresh wound on stage, and it becomes increasingly difficult not to see some secret facet of your own family walk on stage as a sharp reminder. Above simply mining the debate over violent video games for scares, Haley gives parents and their own escapist virtual reality, suburbia, their due. The true horror is the generation gap let grow too wide. Though stage violence is limited to key moments, there are plenty of sinews stretching and tearing as parents and children become irrevocably distant.
Director David Dieudonne and Assistant Director Elliot Kashner excel at fitting a whole neighborhood and its virtual counterpart into D.C. Arts Center’s space. Set designer Rachel Marie Wallace‘s projections turn a simple stage of white blocks into easily recognizable sets, be they domestic or digital. Though the video game intro-sequence drags on and the supposedly cutting-edge game looks reminiscent of PlayStation 1, the game world proves immersive overall. When the analog and digital worlds bleed together, Jen Bevan‘s costume design pays off, contrasting the everyday adults with a gamer’s peculiar avatar, wreathed with lights.
The cast rise to the challenge too, with the majority pulling quadruple duty on characters. Annette Mooney Wasno (Leslie, Vicki, Barbara, Joy) and Jen Bevan (Makaela, Kaitlyn, Madison, Chelsea) especially give a wide range of performances. Wasno is chilling as she turns from doddering to deadly in a single climactic scene.
As “zombiekillr14,” Yoni Gray‘s physicality calls back to countless games, undoing any damage caused by dated jokes about “OMG” and “LOL.” Brian Kraemer (Walkthrough) embodies the horrors to come, looming in the background for much of the show. If any scene gets a bit too intense, you can always look into Kraemer’s cold-yet-hungry eyes and feel even more unsettled.
See it if: You’re on the fence about moving to suburbia.
Skip it: Combining dysfunctional families and stage violence crosses your line.
Image courtesy of Molotov Theatre Group