REVIEW OF IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT
By Madhuri Shekar
Directed by James Nelson
Custom Made Theatre Co.
For tickets / schedule :
Custom Made Theatre, San Francisco
RUN: November 12-December 12, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
(November 15, 2015)
Note: The play and this review contain mature content.
Created by the young playwright Madhuri Shekar, In Love and Warcraft is set in a college atmosphere, complete with struggles and insecurities. The story is the journey of a woman who is asexual in a refreshingly unique perspective, which is sadly lacking in modern theatre and literature. Strides have been made depicting characters who are a range of sexual orientations, but not the smaller group who prefer not having sex at all in a relationship as they find it unappealing and uncomfortable. Current cultural standards place a great deal of pressure on asexuals that there is something “wrong” with them, and they should be having sex because it is “normal”. When Evie (Monica Ho) finds herself in a relationship, she is not sure what to tell him, because it takes courage to open up on such a deep level.
The play’s underlying social commentary weaves into online expectations as well; Evie is an avid gamer with friends who are primarily on the internet, similar to Felicia Day’s brilliant web series The Guild. Adding in the layer of an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) dominating Evie’s world and putting her in conflict with her IRL (In Real Life) friends and boyfriend is a realistic depiction of many relationships today. When Raul (Ed Berkeley) gives her an ultimatum, she can only give WoW (World of Warcraft) up for so long before she is sucked back into her online world. Balancing living and the internet is a constant challenge, which not everyone can understand. The play is eerily accurate regarding gamers; I was impressed by the stage direction given for the characters in avatar form to softly bob back and forth like in the game. I was confused by the guild throwing her out for missing a couple of dungeon raids and going on a date, since usually they are understanding of that sort of thing, although in a post-Gamergate world the acceptance of women has shifted. I appreciated the attention to detail from costume designer Brooke Jennings, both in the avatar armor and array of DC Comics and zombie t-shirts.
Monica Ho as Evie embodied the awkward yet vivacious gamer with alacrity, from her enthusiasm in game to genuine pain when Raul betrayed her. Laura Espino portrays Kitty, who is the other side of the coin, bordering on sexual addiction. Ed Berkeley as the boyfriend Raul settles the play firmly in reality, keeping other characters grounded in an endearing way. Of special note is Sal Mattos as four characters, injecting such different personalities into himself that it is easy to believe they were separate actors instead of one. Although technically a comedy, I found the play thought provoking and relevant, thanks to strong performances from the cast.
Geek & Sundry recently interviewed Madhuri Shekar, “I went into this play not with the question of gaming, but really the question of sexuality and young women on college campuses.” In Love and Warcraft tackles the difficult subject in a quirky humorous manner. I would highly recommend this play whether or not you consider yourself part of geek culture. It uses gaming as a means to discuss a more fundamental question, for which I highly applaud the playwright and Custom Made for bringing it to the Bay Area.