Michael Bergeron
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The Nether

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The Nether is what the internet has evolved into in a fascinating and thought provoking play by Jennifer Haley. A website, like a futuristic Second Life, allows users to interact with their fantasies in a three-dimensional-world.

A spokesperson for The Alley Theatre announces to the audience before the play starts that if one feels the need to walk out to please wait until one of the numerous blackouts to do so. Indeed I saw a couple of men in black suits walk out about twenty minutes into The Nether. It almost seemed like their leaving was part of the performance. After all playwrights like Jean Genet have stated that there must be certain people seated in the front row of a particular production.

Nonetheless, The Nether pushes buttons on how people feel about pedophilia. In a minimalist setting we observe a female officer questioning a suspect about his involvement with a computer server housed in a secret location. Other characters include an avatar, the person behind that avatar, and a young girl.

The thing that really worked about The Nether was the innovative way the stage was transformed to suggest a virtual world. The downstairs Neuhaus is a very small space to begin with. The stage mechanics became its own character.

Theme wise it seems that The Nether repeats itself over and over. What would be a single plot thread on a crime procedural show has been extended to feature length.

The Nether runs at The Alley’s Neuhaus Theatre until May 29. The adult nature of the play requires a mature audience.

— Michael Bergeron