The story takes place in two locations - interrogations (with black and white mirrored video projections designed by Kathy Maxwell) led by Detective Morris (a formidable Mo Perry), and "the nether," which is what our internet has evolved into. In this world, the majority of work, school, and socialization occurs in "realms" within the nether, a sort of virtual reality where people take on avatars (if I remembered that movie I might say this play shares similarities with it too, but I don't). Morris is interrogating two men. She's trying to build a case against one of them, a Mr. Sims (a terrifically terrifying Stephen Yoakam), who has created a realm called "the hideaway" in which pedophiles can do what pedophiles do with young children. Except that the children aren't really children, their "behinders" are consenting adults, and it's virtual reality so it's not really happening. Or is it? Mr. Sims (who calls himself Papa in the hideaway) talks about a world without consequence (which sounds like a line right out of Westworld), and isn't it better that the pedophiles satisfy their urges in a world where no one gets hurt, instead of with actual human children? Maybe he has a point, as disgusting as the hideaway is.
But of course, it's not true that no one gets hurt. As Sims himself says, "just because it's virtual doesn't mean it's not real." The other interrogee is Mr. Doyle (Craig Johnson, whose portrayal of this sad man broke my heart). Doyle goes from being a client in the hideaway to a permanent resident, and is even considering becoming a "shade," which is a person who checks out from the real world entirely, going on life support and living entirely on the nether. The story of who Doyle is and why he's so taken with the hideaway is one I won't spoil here.
|Sims (Stephen Yoakam) and Woodnut (JuCoby Johnson)|
in the hideaway (photo by Dan Norman)
The Nether continues through October 15 and is actually a great contribution to the Halloween theater season. Go see it if you dare.