Game Under: LIGATURE MARKS portrays the real-life subtext of RPG existence

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Ligature Marks

Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jordana Williams

Presented by Gideon Productions

July 17—27, 2013

The Brick Theater, 575 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, USA

Rom-coms and sci-fi disaster movies fight for dominance at the multiplex like robots and dinosaurs, but Mac Rogers brings the two sides together in romantic sci-fi disaster plays — though the dysfunctional couples in his stories have a lot more distance to cross.

Fresh from his acclaimed Frankenstein Upstairs, which recast the created offspring in the context of a psychodrama (and cray comedy) about the family you choose and the one you literally make, Rogers enters Ligature Marks in the fifth annual Game Play festival, a series of stage productions and events based on the world of electronic and other gaming.

This one isn’t multiplayer but it has rotating personalities, with the show’s considerable dramatic weight carried by the duo of Rogers himself in the role of game-addicted malcontent Terry, and Rebecca Comtois as his ignored but still devoted ex Jill — as well as various neighbors, law enforcers and femmes fatales in the noir-fiction RPG they each become immersed in.

Jill is way too attached to the love interests she lets her personality be defined by and Terry is dangerously detached from any sustainable human contact (though he’s content to be dependent on Jill in a purely material way when he crashes at her No-town, USA apartment after a jail term for cybertheft).

Games, like plays, are where we can work out our shortcomings safely, and the spaces between Jill and Terry are played out in the settings of the fictional online NOIR game, whose scenarios of betrayal, intrigue and murder have a relationship to the couple’s real-life animosities and disappointments we’re never quite sure of.

Reality gives you endless chances to level up, and no choice but to do over, and we can accept the slow steps toward a life worth logging on for as a metaphor within the play we’re seeing, whether or not Jill and Terry are seeing it that way.

We are the spectators to Rogers as the magnetically dickish Terry, a slapstick stoner fellow tenant, and a more mature idealized version of himself, and Comtois (in an especially precise and powerful performance) as the needy but surprisingly self-possessed Jill, a skeptical and driven detective, and an updated, truthfully shaded noir femme fatale.  We don’t know what parts they’re really going through and what parts are an arm’s length (and typing-finger’s or texting-thumbs’ length) fantasy…but outside the screen of crimes and passions, it could be that, without any special disasters or adventures, we do violence enough to those we should care about, and the life we might have with them could be all we need.

Sci-fi fans and computer geeks are used to layers of reality and deceptive VR — and though Rogers muses in the program notes that he might be a strange choice for a play about gaming since he more identifies with noir’s automatic losers, he’s the perfect interpreter for what happens when those layers fall away, and no longer playing is the best chance to win.

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