Iowa City – Dreamwell Theatre kicks off its 19th season with The Nether by Jennifer Haley this Friday. The playwright’s website describes show this way:
“A new virtual wonderland provides total sensory immersion. Just log in, choose an identity and indulge your every whim. But when a young detective uncovers a disturbing brand of entertainment, she triggers a dark battle over technology and human desire.
Winner of the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Nether is both serpentine crime drama and haunting sci-fi thriller that explores the consequences of living out our private dreams.”
We asked director Rachael Lindhart five questions about the show.
Can you tell us the story of The Nether?
The Nether is a futuristic story about where the author thinks virtual reality is leading us. Some viewpoints are grim: there seem to be no trees in our future; people are spending most of their time in virtual reality rather than nature. Virtual reality is extremely appealing; the art of sensation is perfected in this world–smells are present and you can taste cognac that is aged 50 years. However, a seedy site called “The Hideaway” is being investigated by an investigative unit because of its ties to pedophilia and pedophiles. The play questions whether we can act without consequence, even in virtual reality. The play becomes about solving the mystery of what actually happens in the virtual reality site, and what happens to humans when they interact within that reality rather than in a physical one.
The internet is such a huge part of our lives now – what does this show tell us about our responsibilities in this new realm?
The play deals beautifully with the question of our responsibility in virtual reality. It is VERY even handed in explaining the two sides of the new reality: the positives are stressed–freedom to use our imaginations, an outlet for urges that we can’t/must not act on in the real world and the pitfalls of forming relationships only in virtual reality.
What’s your favorite moment in the show (without giving anything away)?
I really don’t want to reveal my favorite moment! It is near the end of the play.
What has surprised you about the rehearsal process for this show?
Something that has surprised me in this play has been the opportunity to direct a very young actress – Kiva, who plays the young girl Iris. She has been excellent to work with and has understood the play on a deep level, as a much more mature actress would. I have not had such a young person (age 12) in such a large and complex role before and it has been a joy to work with her.
If the Nether were a bird, what bird would it be? Yes, I realize that question is a little weird.
A bird…what a difficult question! Actually, maybe a swan–but in reverse. At first, a breathtakingly beautiful bird. but then gradually changing to an ugly duckling! Is that weird? Yes, it is.
Morris: Jessica Wilson
Papa/Sims: Matt Brewbaker
Doyle: Chuck Dufano
Woodnut: Ruben A Lebron
Iris: Kiva Meeks-Mosley
Tickets available here.