Thursday, August 27, 2009

NY Fringe Festival Review: Viral


VIRAL
Presented by: Gideon Productions, LLC
Writer: Mac Rogers
Director: Jordana Williams

Summary:
There’s a fine line between love and hate, and I found it with Viral.

There is a lot not to like in Mac Rogers’ play about a group of sick whackos who want to film a woman’s suicide because they get aroused sexually by watching a person’s last minutes.

Colin (Kent Meister) and his girlfriend Geena (Rebecca Comtois) have set up a website with veiled information about assisting someone who wants to commit suicide. After months of waiting, they get a hit from Meredith (a really terrific Amy Lynn Stewart) and she agrees to come to the couple’s ratty apartment to die on camera (while they watch by remote video while having sex). Geena’s brother, Jarvis (Matthew Trumbull), who lives with the couple and who shares their sexual inclination, can score the pills that will put her to sleep quickly and painlessly.

Colin has a vision for an elegant film and hopes sleazy film industry acquaintance Snow (Jonathan Pereira) will distribute the film as a service to others with the same death watching fetish can enjoy it. Snuff films are available, of course, but this is different, the three insist. “Those people are animals!” they agree, differentiating.

What Colin didn’t envision is that Meredith and Geena would hit it off and that the woman who has given up on life would give the woman he abuses and degrades new strength to take control of her life. Meanwhile, Jarvis, who goes off to masturbate as often as others take smoking breaks, is turned on by a living Meredith practicing taking her pills.

The play enraged me for its total lack of respect for life and decency. The threesome talks about an “exit strategy” for the body while Meredith sits in the room. Colin cautions Geena about becoming too friendly with Meredith because he doesn’t want her to give her “any reason to stay alive.” When Meredith has a moment of hesitation about going through with it, Colin physically blocks her exit because she represents only a film opportunity and money to him.

In fact, no one ever asks meredith why she has come to the point of feeling life isn’t worth living. In a moving monologue, Meredith does share some of her despair, and Geena defends her right to choose not to commit suicide, but no one ever offers any hope or help.

I wanted to run up there and hug Meredith and tell her she’s precious and so is her life and that no matter how many times she had failed, there always is hope in Christ. I wanted to slap Geena and tell her to stand up for herself and get away from the abusive boyfriend who was turning her brain to jelly. I wanted to tell Colin that he was a sick wimp and I wanted to tell Jarvis that if he used his hands for something more constructive, for once, like a job, he could stop depending on his sister to support him.

And then I realized what a good play this is despite my hatred of its disgusting subject matter. These characters had become like real people to me, and isn’t that a mark of good theater? So I loved the writer's ability in spite of myself.

Highlights:
•Stewart's full-ranging interpretation of the character

Lowlights:
•Really not fun subject matter

Christians might also like to know:
Besides all of the stuff mentioned above…
• Lord’s name taken in vain

Fringe Tassels Awarded: 3.0
VENUE #16: The SoHo Playhouse
The run has ended

--Lauren Yarger

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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