warplay: Drama by JC Lee. World Premiere directed by Ben Randle. New Conservatory Theatre Center (Walker Theatre), 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA. 415-864-8972 or www.nctcsf.org June 2-July 2, 2017
warplay given a muscular staging at NCTC Rating:
Although it seems idiosyncratic to use a lower case title for this dynamic world premiere of multitalented JC Lee’s warplay, it is appropriate. Although based on Homer’s The Iliad it is not an adaptation. In fact the author calls it a “ripoff” content to glorify the male bonding/love of A(chilles) and P(atroclus) using modern vernacular language and computer game competitions as a stand in for the Trojan War.
The play is divided into 10 scenes with each scene beginning with a projection signifying the impending content. The first “In The Blood” establishes the innate differences between A and P with A being the most handsome kid at school with a self-imposed wish to be great, denying free will and insisting that we lie to each other. The simple act of not killing a rabbit with a stone establishes the more gentle nature of P. This simple fact telegraphs a scene involving a string of gutted rabbits.
They are preparing to do battle in a computer game “war” that is equally important to win thus becoming a hero. Whereas in The Iliad it is Achilles who refuses to go, Lee sets up P as the one who refuses to go presaging a later plot twist. Despite their differences male bonding and love is signified in gestures and in deeds even though A finds P’s juvenile antics annoying in the segment labelled “Small Thing.”
“Echoes of a Ticking Clock” is a flashback story with A relating how he learned to trust his mother after she dipped him into the river holding him by his heel. The inevitability of time ticking away is amplified with A professing his love for P.
In “Capture The Flag” it is no longer a game and the gutting of a string of rabbits graphically displays the change in P who blurts out to A, “You’ve never had to earn love” and “I am ready to be a hero” as they go off to “A Dark Place” ending up in “Pretty Much The Best Place” with A sadly admitting “I want to be good.”
As the conflict approaches and author Lee sets up the “Come Sail Away” section with P recognizing “I am only a footnote in his story” before the inevitable occurs it is P that goes off to his death wearing A’s armor thus demonstrating the ultimate sacrifice and his love.
The staging of the entire show is a marvel with a slanted single ladder dominating the center stage with black drapes on the rear wall concealing the inevitable imaginary battlefield and a pile of rubble on stage right with the multiple props needed for each scene. All this enriched by sound and light enhancing the action. The acting by Ed Berkeley (A) and JD Scalzo (P) will certainly earn them awards. Ben Randle’s directing is a marvel of pacing with enough brilliant directorial conceits for multiple productions.
JC Lee has written a powerful play that has an ending that with tear at your heart. This is a must see play with a running time of 75 minutes without intermission.
CAST: Ed Berkeley as Achilles and JD Scalzo as Patroclus.
CREATIVE TEAM: Scenic design by Devin Kasper, costume design by Miriam Lewis, lighting design by Christian V. Mejia, sound and projection design by Theodore J.H. Hulsker, prop design by Adeline Smith, fight direction by Will Springhorn, Jr. and stage management by Kaitlin Rosen.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com
A (Ed Berkeley, left) and P (JD Scalzo) are lifelong friends preparing going to battle in the biggest game they’ve played. Photo by Lois Tema.