POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2010:
The Bigger Picture
Odeum's newest production questions big societal issues, and Rigoletto learns a harsh lesson in famous opera
First-hand interaction. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom blurs the lines of tangible versus intangible for teenagers and their parents.
I've never been much of a gamer. What am I saying? I've never been a gamer at all. Aside from Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo system, I've never played a video game in my life. And I can tell you, my hand-eye coordination has suffered because of it.
What I do know about video games is mostly stuff overheard when my little brother had sleepovers and seen on late-night newscasts. The stuff seen on the news almost always implied--or declared straight out--that video games rot young peoples' minds and/or turn them into violent criminals.
Whether you believe that assertion or not, there is some legitimacy to the claim that video games are addicting and can, like any other addiction, have grim consequences.
That is the subject of Odeum Theatre Company's latest project, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, a 2008 play by Jennifer Haley featured in that year's Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky.
As explained in the Humana newsletter, after Haley enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin, her mother and her younger brothers moved to an affluent suburb of Houston, where all of the houses, each featuring a perfectly manicured lawn, looked almost identical.
As unsettling as Haley found this setting, she felt just as unsettled about the multiplayer online role-playing games her brothers found themselves engrossed.
Both elements are featured in Neighborhood 3, a play set in a neighborhood very similar to her mother's, a neighborhood where all of the teenagers are consumed by an online video game--a game that features an eerily pristine subdivision, much like their own.
Soon, the boundaries of reality begin to blur for these teenagers and their parents, who face their own addictions.
David Lawrence directs the play for Odeum.
"The way the show is written is interesting because it ultimately comes back to which came first: the chicken or the egg?" Lawrence said. "Who has the problem first: the parents or the children?
"Going into the process, when we sat down and started looking at the script and doing the book work and looking at the dramaturgical aspects, one of the things I wanted to look at is how, in every situation, everyone is part of the problem, and everyone is part of the solution, and how detrimental randomly assigning blame can be," Lawrence said. "Everyone should have a mind's eye on how the parents in each scene contribute to the problem.
"Typically, society blames the next generation, but kids aren't born with these problems that just happen to fit whatever era they're in, but they learn these problems from somewhere."
Lawrence said, because of the play's subject matter and the abstract nature in which it is portrayed, he doubted any company other than Odeum would be daring enough to present it.
"It sort of flies in the face of polite society," he said. "It's a show that challenges social issues and asks people to make a change in their culture."
Although it tackles a sort of weighty subject, Lawrence assures us the play is still fun and humorous. Four actors portray a multitude of characters. Leslie Long and Will Carpenter play all of the parental roles, and Cassie Hollis and Whitson Hanna play the teenage ones. At times they are the children playing the game, and at times they are the game.
In an interview for the Humana newsletter, Haley said, "There's humor, there's mystery, and there's impending doom, but ultimately it's about people trying desperately to communicate with each other and being woefully incapable of it. For me, that's the true horror."
Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom plays Thursday, Feb. 25 through Saturday, Feb. 27 at 8pm and Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2pm in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Charles E. Norman Theatre, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $25 at www.tulsapac.com.
The Hunchback of Mantua
Tulsa Opera presents Rigoletto, one of the 10 most oft-performed operas in the world, Saturday, Feb. 27, Friday March 5 and Sunday, March 7.
Robert Hyman, last seen at TO in 2009's Hansel and Gretel, stars as Rigoletto, and acclaimed soprano Talise Trevigne plays Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter.
Described as the first masterpiece of Giuseppe Verdi's middle career, Rigoletto tells the story of the Duke of Mantua, a corrupt man who aims to seduce Gilda and the Countess of Ceprano. Rigoletto, the hunchbacked court jester, not knowing one of the duke's prey is his daughter, mocks both of the women's husbands and advises the duke to have them killed or imprisoned.
Rigoletto also mocks Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke had dishonored. The count is arrested, but not before he curses Rigoletto who fears the curse.
Meanwhile, the Duke convinces Gilda to fall in love with him.
Hostile noblemen who believe Gilda to be Rigoletto's lover make plans to abduct the girl. They tell Rigoletto they are abducting the Countess of Ceprano, and Gilda is carried away in front of him. When he realizes it was Gilda who was abducted, Rigoletto collapses, remembering the curse.
Rigoletto goes to the palace searching for his daughter and is beaten by the courtiers. He finds Gilda, who describes to him what happened to her, and Rigoletto vows revenge.
Rigoletto bargains with an assassin to kill the duke and orders Gilda to dress in men's clothes and go to Verona, where he will later meet her. When Gilda, dressed as a man, overhears plans to murder the duke, she vows to sacrifice herself for him, even though she knows him to be a philanderer.
Gilda is killed and her body wrapped in a sack. When Rigoletto arrives with the money, he rejoices, until he opens the sack and finds his daughter's body. She dies in Rigoletto's arms as he remembers the curse.
Rigoletto features some of opera's most famous and beautiful repertoire, including La donna è mobile ("Woman is fickle"), a beautiful aria, despite its subject.
Kostis Protopapas, TO's artistic director, conducts this production, while Kristine McIntyre directs. Rigoletto plays in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall at 7:30pm Saturday. Tickets are $22-$98.
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