Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Level Up

I have never made it past level 1 on a video game. The last time I played, I got vertigo. Three months later a large ocean wave  tumbled me around in the surf and knocked the crystals back in place. I've never understood the fascination with video games and would grumble when my kids spent hours in front of the screen.

But Dante Piro's debut play,  Level 4, gave me an entirely new perspective; and a better understanding of the allure of the game.

Piro, a video game enthusiast himself, wrote the script after finishing one of his all-time favorite games. After basking in the accolades and closing credits, waiting for the game to reset, he realized "it wasn't going to end . . . the only way to stop this was to turn it off. And I didn't want to do it. I wanted to stay in that moment forever."

He wrote Level 4 to explore the sense of loss he experienced when his beloved game was over. But rather than write about the game from his experience, he wrote Level 4 from inside the game.  What did it feel like when the world went dark. From the inside.

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

Level 4 is about more than just video games. It is about perseverance, teamwork, and about empathy - putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. Even if that someone else is not real. I may not be a gamer; but I've mourned the ending of a novel, and felt as if I'd lost someone I loved. I can empathize.

The show was ably directed by Chelsea Burke. And the acting was quite strong. Adam Turck was charming as The Hero playing his way through Karma Quest. Chris Klinger's Light Lord, the main character in the video game, gave a nuanced and compelling performance. Adam Valentine was delightful as Light Lord's sidekick Strobe. Levi Meerovtich as Mertens,  guardian of the game's arsenal, was hilarious at times.  And Breezy Potter rounded out of the cast as The Heroine and Tammy. I wanted to see more of her on stage. Her supporting characters were well-developed and distinct.

Despite being too long - in both acts - the play was quirky and funny. A bit of tightening of the dialogue might have  helped with some slow pacing and brought out even more of the very witty one-liners.

Kudoes to TheatreLAB for spotlighting a local playwright. It's exciting to be in the audience of a world premier event.

Level 4 continues through August 31, 2019 at TheatreLAB. For tickets click here.

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