Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)
VENUE #14: Bleecker Theatre
Performance seen: Sat 20 @ 4:30
Remaining performance: Sat 27 @ 7:45
“Theatre of the Arcade” is a very clever and well-played (pun intended) show. Each of its five scenes (with one intermission) constructs a story out of two themes—the actions, characters, and objects of a classic arcade game, and an iconic theatrical work.
Sadly for me, I’m not in the target audience for this show. I got the theatrical references (well, all but one), but other than a single afternoon spent playing air hockey with my daughter, I’ve never even stepped into a game arcade.
My knowledge of Frogger (the arcade game for the first segment), for example, is limited to a classic Seinfeld episode about it. I sort of understood, that Donkey Kong was the game in the second segment, which was the best realized, I think, as a piece of theatre (it used “A Streetcar Named Desire” as its starting point, with the Stanley Kowalski as an out-of-work barrelmaker). I enjoyed the fourth segment almost as much; it uses some kind of Spacewar game (Asteroids, as it turns out) to reimagine one of my favorite plays, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Though it went on a bit too long, the Mamet-like dialogue was spot-on.
The audience, fortunately, seemed in the main the right one for this show, and seemed to like the final segment the best. I thought the videogame references were too explicit—I didn’t get a single one of them, but could tell they were explicit references (to Super Mario Bros, as it turned out. And I never got the theatrical reference, though a friend thought it was something by Sam Shepard, maybe “Fool for Love”)—but the audience seemed to love them. By not naming the game, apparently they could serve as punchlines to an ongoing joke.
This is, in short, a tremendous show for anyone with at least a passing understanding of the arcade games and at least an okay show for anyone else.
[more fringe 2011 reviews here]