‘Doom’ blurs the line between virtual, reality
CHELSEA - If you already have qualms about the kind of aggression and gore that pervade the world of online gaming, you might want to think twice before attending the Apollinaire Theatre Company’s production of “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom,’’ a deft and deeply scary work by Jennifer Haley that debuted at the prestigious
Fringe productions of Haley’s play are starting to pop up across the country; it appears to be on the verge of going viral. Kudos to director Danielle Fauteux Jacques for snapping up this crackling cautionary tale ahead of the pack. And it’s hard to imagine a more astute interpretation than that rendered by her adventurous company.
The plot, as sketchy as it is ornate, is meta-meta. The teenagers in an affluent subdivision (where a high-schooler’s rite of passage might include the acquisition of a Hummer - or two, if he totals the first) have all gone gaga over a video game titled Neighborhood 3. The gimmick is that through the miracle of GPS, the game’s landscape precisely duplicates their own neighborhood, down to certain tagged households harboring alleged “zombies’’ - insufficiently permissive parents, we’re meant to infer.
The players’ goal is to knock out as many ghouls as necessary in order to survive the “Last Chapter’’ and access the “Final House.’’ “You have to keep getting to the next level,’’ insists geeky Trevor (Satya Sridharan), inadvertently echoing the very credo that attracted the kids’ parents to this aspirational cul-de-sac. “You have to get to the top.’’
And guess which segment of this population most aptly fits the rubric “zombie’’? The game-obsessed teens, of course, chained to their laptops, screaming “die die die die die die die die die die die die die die’’ (that’s Megan Reynolds, chillingly credible as a terminal addict).
The real trouble starts when wormholes (breaks in the space-time continuum, for us nonpractitioner “noobs’’) allow the virtual world to bleed - literally - into the real one.
In the Apollinaire production, 15 roles are distributed among eight actors, which can make for some confusing transitions but is perhaps in keeping with the author’s superficially helter-skelter, yet subtly incremental game plan. The characters, both young and ostensibly adult, may start out generic but are endowed with interesting quirks, which the performers capture winningly.
Notable amid a consistently strong cast is Brian Quint, playing both a menacing neighbor whose very childlessness is cause for suspicion and a clueless father who considers himself a font of sound advice (he dredges up pearls of wisdom from sources as disparate as Henry David Thoreau and Charles Manson). At the receiving end is Erez Rose, a standout both as a boy devastated by the accidental death (or was it?) of his cat, Snickers, and as the armored-up “zombieslayer14,’’ who finds himself confusingly partnered in the final round with an attractive avatar who looks suspiciously like his best friend’s mother.
Adding immeasurably to the captivating ambiance are Julia Noulin-Merat’s silver box of a set, a cross between a chessboard and a gladiatorial arena, and Aaron Mack’s techno score, which tracks the mood adroitly, when not - I presume - duplicating the aural effect of prototypical games.
What would I know, as a superannuated parental unit who doesn’t even qualify as a noob? But I do know (having looked it up) that a passing reference to one Warren Leblanc, who “got caught up in this game called Manhunt and killed his 14-year-old friend with a claw hammer’’ qualifies as “IRL.’’ Translation: In Real Life.