Let’s make this clear: I love video games. I have played them all of my life and happen to believe they are developing magnificently as an art form. This article and this play are not about to try and convince you that all video games are mind numbing, violence-promoting, family-destroying abominations. “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” will creep you out though, make no mistake.
When writer Jennifer Haley wanted to create a twisted, contemporary piece about suburban life, she chose to use a zombie slayer video game as a vehicle for her story.
“It’s not a play about video games,” Bre Connel, a senior theatre performance major, explains.“It’s a tool that the playwright [Haley] used to convey a message, but ultimately I think the message of the play is: parents and their children aren’t communicating the way they used to.”
The play is set in what Haley simply calls: suburbia. It revolves around a cluster of families who live in the same neighborhood. The children of these families are all playing an online zombie killing game, and the parents are left to discern what has become of their children and their lives.
It becomes difficult to tell, however, once the lines between suburban reality and virtual reality are blurred. Lack of effective communication eats away at all of these characters and makes for a thrilling and often humorous depiction of contemporary life.
Seton Hill University’s production of “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” is directed by the associate professor of theatre Denise Pullen. “‘Neighborhood 3’ is one of my favorite kinds of plays. I enjoy working with the actors on advanced scene work.”
“Working on the relationships and nuances…is just fun. No matter how many times you read this script, there are so many embedded clues and parallels that there are always discoveries to be made working together with the actors,” said Pullen.
One might say finding the clues is quite like playing a game that requires constant vigilance. The script is certainly meant to be cryptic and it leaves much up to the artists’ interpretation. It is written without punctuation, capitalization, and only line breaks give indication where the playwright intends stress or attention.
The actors certainly have their work cut out. The only clues the characters receive come from the guidance of the Walkthrough, voiced by sophomore Brittany Lamb. And even though “Neighborhood 3” circles the lives of several families, only four other actors portray the different “types” of the nuclear family.
The Father-Type is played by freshman Levi Minear; Mother-Type by senior Bre Connell; Son-Type by senior Matt Leslie; and Daughter-Type by sophomore Megan Henderson.
Pullen says this was the playwright’s intention, and she decided to honor it. In addition to giving the actors opportunity to stretch many different muscles, it supports the illusion that this situation is within any and every family. As if the content of the play wasn’t intriguing enough, it might be interesting to note that the four are never seen all together as one family.
“Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” opens Friday, September 23 and runs until Saturday, October 1. It is a contemporary horror story, ripe with hints that all is not well in the Neighborhood.
If we agree, we have a communication problem, and the source is not embedded in the video game, then where did this problem originate? In the materialistic lifestyles of modern-day suburbia? In the disintegration of the nuclear family brought on gender equality campaigns? In the relationship between parent and child? Is it just a compulsive requisition of doom?
Come to the William Granger-Ryan Theatre on Friday and decide for yourself.