Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Nether at Jungle Theatre

For those who don't know, I recently moved to Minneapolis. Since I moved I've been trying to attend not only a ton of productions but also explore and reach out to theatres that I haven't been to. I am delighted to say I was able to attend my first production at the Jungle Theater and second time seeing this play. I saw the intense, crime drama, sci-fi thriller, The Nether by Jennifer Haley. Yes I did just use all those adjectives as well, because it is all of those things...and it was amazing.

Think of an episode of Black Mirror and how mind boggling some of the episodes are. Now imagine seeing all of that unravel in front of you live. At times I felt myself holding my breath, despite already knowing the entire plot as it was my second time seeing it. Without giving anything away, this is a great show that is even better the second time around. Mainly because the writing is that good. It's a show that has a great twist which makes the second time watching it all the better.

The nether is the future (literally). The Nether is similar to an online virtual reality where people can log in, choose an identify and indulge in their every whim. People can create their own worlds that are so realistic, the world must reevaluate what is ethical or not. When Detective Morris uncovers that The Nether has been used for what would be considered illegal activity in the real world, she triggers an intense battle between technology and human desire.

Stephen Yoakam as Sims/Papa and
Mo Perry as Detective Morris
photo credit: Dan Norman
I'll start with my favorite part and that easily is the set designed by Lee Savage. There are two primary locations that the show takes place in. The first is in an interrogation room (shown on the right). With large black walls, two seats and light ropes, it may seem simple. But I was drawn to it. Especially the way they used cameras in real time to show their faces on the stage. While the stage transformed as we logged into The Nether, it completely changed from all black and minimum color to colorful costumes, intricate set pieces and costumes that use more than just black. This was "the hideaway" which is the virtual world that Sims created.

The acting is absolutely superb. It's really hard to tell you why these actors are all so talented because I'm genuinely afraid I'll spoil something from this intricate and amazing plot. However let me start with Mo Petty, who played Detective Morris. She was absolutely divine as she held her ground as she interrogates two of the characters. She manages to hold the audience captive in her interrogation room which is no easy feature when her space was so limited on where she could walk. JuCoby Johnson is remarkable as Woodnut and handles each scene carefully as his character uncovers various plot developments. Ella Freeburg played Iris and is marvelous. At the mere age of 12 she was brilliant in portraying a character who the audience may think knows nothing, but secretly knows everything...I'll leave it there without spoiling something. Honestly the entire cast is amazing and completely in tune with each other.

Stephan Yoakam as Sims/Papa and Jucoby Johnson as Woodnut
photo credit: Dan Norman
This is an important of piece because it really is a play that can spark so many discussions. What was the final scene about? Where and when does technology go too far? Is technology advancing quicker than humans can analyze the pros and cons of it? The play really takes a look at the issues and ethics concerning virtual reality and technology. College students? Pay attention to this show, it'd make an excellent research paper.

Overall, The Nether is a thought provoking piece for this technology filled era. It will have you guessing each twist through out the entire production and will also keep you thinking until days after. I know some of you may be confused or frustrated at how little of the plot I can give away, but that is how much I care about the surprises in this show. I really would hate to ruin it for anyone! You can get your tickets here.

*UPDATE: Twin Cities theater fans are in luck as well because the Jungle Theater has just announced that due to high demand, this production will be extended through October 21.

*NOTE: This show contains strong language and mature sexual content. The production does have themes involving the discussion of pedophilia as well.

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