Test (fourth review)

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

Review by: Brian Morton

TEST, a play by local playwright and arts advocate Stephen Near, is about the blurred line between fantasy and reality

We meet Drew a forty something Ontario teacher and self proclaimed “geek” as he wanders through a complicated and unusual relationship with Dana, a middle management type from the West Coast.  Both are in relationships with other people.  And both prefer the excitement of a fictional world where they get to play queens, sorcerers and kingmakers.   Think GAME OF THRONES but on steroids and played by regular folks wearing black.

The forum for their affair is LIVE ACTION ROLE PLAYING, (also known as LARPing), a heady mix between the Society for Creative Anachronism, improv theatre and the 80s gaming phenomenon Dungeons and Dragons.  LARPers attend conventions all over North American – three day hotel conferences centered on gaming, parties, and the wearing of costumes and masks.

The fictional characters actions are determined by the results of a game of rock. paper scissors which is the “TEST” referred to in the play’s title.   (This replaces the dice rolling that was a feature of Role playing games like D & D).

This is writer Near’s most accessible and audience friendly play to date – in that behind all of this Fantasy inspired geek-dom is a story of two vulnerable and lonely people who have an affair out of simple loneliness.   The constant switching between the real Drew and Dana and the fictional characters they are portraying is this play’s most clever feature.

The performances by Sara Weber and playwright Near are first rate and propel us through the story with skill and bravado.  The ending is satisfying and true to life.

I really enjoyed this off beat production and put it in my top three of all the shows I have seen this this years Hamilton Fringe.  TEST is thoughtful, clever and will surprise an audience I think.

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