respawn (v.): to re-enter gameplay after being killed.
EverScape, by triangle native Allan Maule, made its regional premiere last October, having been a smash hit at the New York Fringe Festival. Bare Theatre co-produced a remounted EverScape as the inaugural production in the new Sonorous Theatre and Film Studio location on Hillsborough Street. The crew and cast remain the same, save one acting replacement.
The play follows a quartet of New Yorkers as they escape the daily grind via nightly quests in the online gaming universe of EverScape. Each has their Real World and in-game roles.
After grabbing my attention in EverScape 1.0, Sean A. Brosnahan returns as Devo, a sympathetic I.T. support operator and in-game Healer. He is less restrained, less subtle than last year, and his performance is as impacting. I named his as one of the Triangle’s top 10 best leading performances of 2016.
Samantha Corey is back in EverScape 2.0 as Kirin, an unsatisfied barista and would-be graphic designer–our in-game Assassin. Corey showed great strength last year, but shows increased vulnerability in version 2.0.
Chris Hinton returns as Gil, a belligerent I.T. support operator and in-game “Tank”. Hinton harnesses greater fragility in 2.0, emphasizing Gil’s wounds more than his anger. Through no fault of Hinton’s, Gil is thoroughly unlikeable–more stubborn bully than BFF.
Playwright Allan Maule joins the acting team for 2.0 as Foster, a nerdy app developer and in-game Wizard. Maule ably illustrates Foster’s inability to drop character, lest we discover the tormented body behind the keyboard.
Maule uses EverScape as an allegory for the characters’ inner psyche. You cannot blow up your office building, but you can obliterate an evil fortress. You cannot murder the Starbucks® managers, but you can slay a two-headed lizard.
A quartet of “NPCs” (non-player characters) are responsible for the majority of the play’s characters and an enormous amount of combat. Most of the show’s points are earned by these players.
Tara Nicole Williams, at once devastating and hilarious, clearly delineates around a dozen characters with expert physicality. She was the most engaging to watch of any 2.0 cast member
Hilary Edwards employs a cache of voices that keep her NPCs distinct, while Matt Fields contorts his body to assume his characters’ various postures. George Labusohr’s expressive eyes serve as the window into his silent characters, but his spoken turn as Kirin’s menacing father is his most memorable moment.
Director Heather J. Strickland mines Maule’s script for the smallest details–pixels of humanity that form a complete image–building the production without hindering her actors. I named Strickland one of the Triangle’s top 5 best directors of 2016.
With Sonorous Road moving from Oberlin Road to Hillsborough Street mid-process, Strickland and company only had only a couple of days to work with the lighting, sound, and stage on which they would actually perform.
As a result, the paint on the production is still a bit wet. The show moves briskly, but transitions are less smooth than 1.0. The shallower stage puts actors on top of one another, cluttering the visual field during battles. Actors cannot materialize as magically as before, since all entryways are now in view.
Brett Stegall’s highly-specific 1.0 lighting is harder to achieve in this space and she needed more time to adapt it. The awkward final lighting cue of 1.0 actually worked better in this space. Stage manager Kelly Mahaffey hit lighting and sound cues with even greater precision than before. Still, an extra week in the new space would have made a great show greater.
Sound is a tricky beast. Like fluid, it takes on the shape of its container. For 2.0, the audience’s backs are directly against the wall, providing a valuable ricochet that amplified actor’s voices and gave greater power to Rod Abernethy’s music and G. Todd Buker’s sound effects. Reduced distance between actor and audience made Jason Bailey’s thrilling fight choreographer all the more intense. I named this one of the Triangle’s top 3 choreographed productions of 2016.
My first EverScape experience was overwhelmed by the excitement and surprise of its uniqueness and visual flare. A second visit proved valuable. Perhaps it was my closer proximity to the performers, my familiarity with the material, or just better acting that better underlined the play’s themes of escapism, disconnection, and “role-playing.”
“They call this escapism, the idle dream of the incapable, the lost, the wanderers from paycheck to paycheck straining for a touch of meaning in a life without.”
I realized that, much like the self-important bohemians of Jonathan Larson’s Rent, these characters can be frustrating. It is difficult to sympathize with the complaints of privileged, educated, (seemingly) heterosexual, white twenty-somethings with friends and families.
This was troubling at first, until I remembered that depression, anxiety, fear, and disability do not care which boxes you check on the census form. We all have pain. We all need an escape.
I sincerely hope I may escape to EverScape again one day.
Dustin K. Britt’s June 2017 article: Lights Up on the New Sonorous Road Studio
Dustin K. Britt’s October 2016 review: Allan Maule’s Ingenious EverScape Is the Theatrical Event of the Season
Sonorous Road Theatre and Bare Theatre present EVERSCAPE at 8 p.m. on Jun. 3 and 3 p.m. on June 4. at the Royal Bakery Building, 3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113. Raleigh, NC 27607.
[THIS RUN HAS ENDED.]
BOX OFFICE: (919) 803-3798; Staff@SonorousRoad.com
SHOW: https://www.facebook.com/events/433373473698260/; http://indietheaternow.com/Play/everscape; http://everscapetheplay.weebly.com/; https://www.facebook.com/EverScapeNYC/
PRESENTER: http://baretheatre.org/; https://www.sonorousroad.com/
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor, director, and member of the board of directors of Arts Access, Inc., which makes the arts accessible to people with disabilities. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.