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Arts & Culture » Theater Review

The Gamergate-inspired drama Non-Player Character doesn't bother to challenge audience assumptions

It provides all the answers to the central dilemma that you'd expect.



Red Theater has achieved its admirable goal to "ask dangerous questions theatrically" in the past. But this time playwright Walt McGough's schematic 2018 Gamergate-inspired drama provides only answers—and likely ones the young storefront audience this company courts already know.

Ambitious Katja, a 22-year-old coder, is passionate about designing a noncompetitive online game that involves creating trees, attaching stories to them, and watching multiple players' stories interconnect. Trent, a hard-core gamer and Katja's bosom college friend, now at a dead end and living with his parents, can't understand a game where no one wins. The calculatedly opposite-gendered pair (now living on opposite sides of the country, no less) meet only as avatars in a game called SpearLight, which Trent's online friend Feldrick joins primarily to exhibit Neanderthal-level sexism. When Katja spurns Trent's romantic advances, he flips from supportive friend to vindictive, self-righteous misogynist in the blink of an eye.

Throughout, it's always clear whose thoughts and actions deserve finger snaps and whose should be instantly condemned. McGough ends up with a staged opinion piece short on nuance and long on repetitive dialogue. Director Beth Wolf has assembled a strong cast, with careful, passionate performances from Alice Wu as Katja and Matthew Schnitker as Trent. But McGough doesn't offer much beyond entry-level critiques of toxic male privilege and gender bias with a pinch of modest female self-empowerment. Like many contemporary playwrights, McGough seems more interested in reassuring his audience that they're right-thinking progressives than in challenging any of their assumptions.   v

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