Is there a crime when the blood is just bits of computer code? Is there abuse when the victim is just an avatar? That and more is at the heart of Jennifer Haley’s compelling play The Nether, beginning its five-week run at Stage West on Thursday, March 10.
The time is the near-future, and the internet is now called The Nether. And there are people whose job it is to police this realm, where nearly anything one desires is possible. Morris is the detective in charge of investigating a site called The Hideaway, to determine if the things which happen there fall outside the “statute of sensual role play.” She is interrogating both the proprietor of the site, Sims, and a long-time customer, Doyle, whose addiction to the site has led him down a very dark path. Her investigation leads her down a rabbit hole, where she finds more and more questions. Is it better to give unnatural desires free rein in the virtual world than to unleash them in the real one, or is that mere justification in the name of commerce? Sims and his site may be reprehensible, but have any actual crimes been committed? There are no easy answers here, and this thought-provoking piece is one audiences won’t soon forget.
Ben Brantley, of the New York Times, wrote “…as a parable for where we’re headed on that big old highway in the digital sky, “The Nether” exerts a viselike grip, while taking you down avenues of thought you probably haven’t traveled yet,” and TimeOut London called it “a relentlessly gripping, entertaining play.”
Jennifer Haley is a playwright whose work delves into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity, and desire. She won the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Nether, produced in Los Angeles, off-Broadway, and on London’s West End. Other plays include Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, a horror story about suburban video game addiction, and Froggy, a noir thriller with interactive media design and a live soundtrack. Jennifer has worked with Center Theatre Group, Royal Court Theatre, Headlong, Sonia Friedman Productions, the Humana Festival of New Plays, American Conservatory Theater, The Banff Centre, Sundance Theatre Lab, O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Lark Play Development Center, PlayPenn, and Page 73. She is a member of New Dramatists in New York City and lives in Los Angeles, where she founded the Playwrights Union. (from jenniferhaley.com)
The Nether is directed by Garret Storms, who directed Stage West’s critically acclaimed Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol and Mr. Burns, a post-electric play. The cast features Allison Pistorius as Morris and Aaron Roberts as Sims/Papa; both appeared in last season’s The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence at Stage West, as Eliza and Merrick, respectively. Randy Pearlman, seen as the tiny lawyer Scruple in Stage West’s The Heir Apparent, will play Doyle, while Jād Saxton, who appeared as Chava in Lyric Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof, will play Iris. And Blake McNamara, seen as Cassio in Othello at Second Thought Theatre, will appear as Woodnut.
Set and projections will be designed by Nate Davis, with lighting design by Luke Atkison and costume design by Derek Whitener. Sound design is by Kellen Voss, and props by Lynn Lovett.
The Nether will preview Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 and Friday, March 11 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, April 10. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. The opening night reception will be Saturday, March 12. Ticket prices range from $31 to $35, with discounts for the preview performance, and for students, seniors, and military. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are necessary), and the Friday Prix Fixe special (dinner and show for $45) will be available beginning March 18. Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.
Event: THE NETHER
By Jennifer Haley
Where: Stage West
821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, Texas 76104
Metro (817) 784-9378 (STG-WEST)
Preview: Thursday March 10 at 7:30
Friday March 11 at 8:00
Regular Run: March 12 through April 10
Thursday evenings 7:30 PM
Friday & Saturday evenings 8:00 PM
Sunday matinees 3:00 PM
Night Reception: Following the performance Saturday, March 12.
Ticket Prices: Preview tickets (1st two shows only): $17
$35 Fri and Sat nights
Seniors 65+ and members of the military $29
$31 Thurs nights and Sun matinees
Seniors 65+ and members of the military $25
$17 Students/Under 30s
$10 at 10 tickets for available seats 10 min. prior to curtain.
Every Friday beginning March 18 Prix Fixe Special
Dinner and show for $45