Saturday, November 28, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Jennifer Haley's Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom at The Flea Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevensas

This review of Jennifer Haley's Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom at The Flea Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom
Written by Jennifer Haley
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Scenic Designer: Simon Harding
Lighting Designer: Brian Aldous
Costume Designer: Jessica Pabst
The Flea Theater
41 White Street
New York, New York 10013
Reviewed 11/22/15  

The title of this play refers to a fictitious X-Box game that has become an addiction with many of the young teenagers living in the neighborhood. It uses GPS and satellite technology to accurately recreate their neighborhood subdivision in this zombie killing virtual reality game. The characters in the game look like themselves and their parents, their own homes can be marked red to symbolize a zombie infiltration, and in the final chapter of the game, each teenager is directed to enter their own home to kill the zombies therein. The kids cannot harm another player and are instructed to pick up garden-variety tools, baseball bats, and other items easily found in the home to kill zombies. Jennifer Haley, the playwright, appears obsessed with the idea that the line between fantasy and reality is becoming increasingly blurred and that teenagers who play too many violent video games may start to engage in violence in real life. To hammer home her questionable hypothesis, she employs the supernatural by claiming that wormholes "link imagination in the game with reality." Hence, when a cat is tortured in the game and left alive for a higher "ruthless rating," a cat seems to also have been tortured in real life.

Ms. Haley also heaps a healthy dose of criticism on the materialism and soullessness of upper-middle-class life with its drug-reliant, pill-popping parents, rule heavy Neighborhood Associations, and spoiled-brat teenage kids. It is written that if you look carefully at the "Welcome" mats in the neighborhood you will see they really say "Help Me!" Parents are frustrated when despite their best efforts, their kids want nothing to do with them. Then there are the parents who have just given up, and in the name of "respecting their kids privacy," basically let the children do whatever they want. As one parent said, I moved to this neighborhood to give my kids a better life, but "there is no moving up; there is no getting out." Another parent reflected, "These  things that seem so small have such enormous consequences." As in the game, all the neighborhoods "are mirror images of one another."

Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom was written by Jennifer Haley in 2007. It premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville 2008 Humana Festival featuring five actors. This New York premiere features fifteen actors (including members of The Bats, The Flea Theater's resident acting company) and is directed by Joel Schumacher (who directed film versions of two best-selling novels by John Grisham (The Client & A Time To Kill) as well as two installments of the blockbuster Batman film series (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). The set, designed by Simon Harding, looks like a skateboard park with a few scattered trees and AstroTurf grass next to a painted road and river. There were two funny moments in the play. The first was a scene when a parent met a teenager "in the game" and she was confused when he used abbreviations such as "IRL" (in real life) and "AFK" (away from keyboard). The second was when a parent speculated the problem might be that the neighborhood was built on an Indian burial ground. She then reflected that "maybe the entire country is built on an Indian burial ground."

All the actors did a fine job in their respective roles, but there were too many actors and characters to keep track of so the audience never had an opportunity to identify with any of them, except perhaps for the one mother who continued to try to reach her son and invited him to sit and watch a CSI episode with her. Then there were plenty of unexplained story lines. What was that reference to three dead babies floating around a backyard tree supposed to be all about, and how, exactly, did a mother not playing the virtual reality game find herself "in the game?." The underlying point of this play is too simplistic. There is no direct link between playing violent video games and engaging in violent behavior in the real world. The filter is the person who plays the game or watches a violent movie or television show. If that person is not already emotionally disturbed, it is unlikely they will engage in violence IRL. Over 40,000 deaths are caused every year by our use of automobiles. You don't see people calling for the return of the horse and buggy. We would be better off spending our time trying to identify at-risk children than by trying to identify every possible trigger that could set off a violence-prone youth.

Neighborhood 3: Requisition Of Doom plays at The Flea Theater through December 20, 2015. Tickets cost from $35.00 to $105.00 and can be purchased either by calling 212-226-0051 or by visiting  

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