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THEATER REVIEW Merge
by Eric Karas
2016-10-19

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Written by: Spenser Davis. Directed by: Andrew Hobgood. At: The Den Theatre's Upstairs Main Stage, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: NewColony.org, $20. Runs through: Nov 13

The New Colony concludes its 2016 season with Merge, a play about the history of video games, home gaming and, specifically, the rise and fall of Atari.

When you walk into the space you are immediately taken into the world of vintage video gaming from the fun neon painted walls/sets by John Wilson and the video-game projections by Paul Deziel and Ben Zemen. Anyone like me—who was a child of the 1970s and teen of the 1980s—will instantly experience a wave of nostalgia, and that happens throughout the whole show. This show starts energetically and keeps on moving with the cast running in and out with dramatic flair and comedy.

The cast does a fine job inhabiting roles, from the dreamer at the beginning ( Wes Needham ) to his parter and his conscience ( Jeffrey Owen Feelong Jr ). I especially enjoyed Lindsey Pearlman's cool as a cucumber Patti York who lobbies for the designers.

On the other end of the spectrum is the over-the-top performance of Michael Peters as the aggressive salesman Joe Seltz. Will Cavedo does a fine job as the nervous sweating Warner Brothers corporate representative Stuart Nygard. Daria Harper's dual role as his corporate boss and cleaning lady is great as both. Omar Abbas Salem's corporate bisexual coke sniffing flirt is hilarious. The full commitment and humor of this cast is infectious but I do admit from scene one till the end I do not enjoy theater where a bunch of people on stage just run on and off yelling in each other's faces. I think they could tone it down a tad and relax.

Overall, this is an interesting trip through history with a nostalgic bent for anyone in their 40s or older. I'm not sure what millennials will think of this but it is a universal story of how companies, especially tech companies, operated and still do. This production effectively spotlights the dreamers who start the companies to the people they stab in the back to the corporations and middle managers who ruin them. This could be the story of the dot bomb or our current culture based on smartphone aps.

It's a fun trip if you can take a little yelling.


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