Test (third review)

Test1Playwright: Stephen Near
Director: Aaron Joel Craig
Cast: Stephen Near, Sara Weber

Review by: Rebecca Costie

Test is two-person play about Drew (Stephen Near) and Dana (Sara Weber), Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) gamers, who retell the shared parts of their past (the in-game one, the real one, and the in-between one) in an attempt to make sense of what was, what wasn’t, and what could have been.

I’m not a gamer. Not a video gamer. Not a role-playing gamer. Not even a card gamer. I’ve had one only intense relationship with gaming. In 1986, I spent countless hours playing “Frogger” on my Commodore 64. I kicked that habit and have been reasonably happy ever since.

Yes, so I was quite concerned about Test. I worried I would feel lost and alone for the entire play.

Here’s the good news: You do not have be into gaming nor do you need knowledge of LARP culture in order to get and enjoy this production by Reaching Symmetry Theatre.  There is a program with a glossary of key terms. More importantly, there are plenty of context clues and non-gamer-friendly material.

Here’s more good news: It’s an excellent show that is about much more than gaming culture.

I won’t even begin to try to discuss the many layers of this play in under 300 words.  I’ll share just a bit about what I think makes it worth the trip to Hamilton Theatre Inc.

Both Near and Weber have an impressive ability to shift between the funny, the serious, and the sensitive and to generate sympathy.

Stephen Near is a gifted writer who knows how to do more than one thing well.  He knows how to create and develop believable and memorable characters. He knows how to make an audience laugh using the right mix of smart and silly. Get ready for the scene with House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” He also knows how to capture the anxiety and anticipation present at the start of a romantic relationship and how to communicate the awkwardness, anger, and regret that often emerge when it ends. And he knows how to help an audience think critically about contemporary realities, including discontent, loneliness, and the collapse of the distinction between the real and the unreal.

Test is a challenging, sophisticated, and funny play that you don’t want to miss.

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