nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
August 11, 2007
Quite simply, Gamers, the new one-man play created and performed by Brian Bielawski, is made of awesome, as his character Steve might put it. In a pitch-perfect comedic performance that captures the essence of computer-gaming geeks around the globe, Bielawski (with co-writer Walter G. Meyer and director Wes Grantom) have crafted a gem of a theatre piece that can speak to both to the Internet-savvy technoratis and tap into the inner rage of any office jockey. This is the kind of show that makes attending FringeNYC totally worthwhile, and is a flat-out riot from start to finish.
In a blackout, the character of Steve begins with an epic description of how his band of followers, the Knights of Albion, have too long struggled underneath the rule of the elves, and today will be his St. Crispin's Day-esque assault to reclaim the thieved relic from their evil clutches. When the lights come up suddenly, we see that Steve is a tech-support guru for the fictional Solvitech, on a headset in a cubicle surrounded by Mountain Dew bottles and wearing a deliciously funny Homestar Runner hoodie. Quickly the situation is explained to an unseen co-worker that Steve is leading a phalanx of knights, mages, gnomes and dwarves on a real-time assault on the Elven region—this of course, in a video game slang that mirrors the wildly popular Worlds of Warcraft online role-playing. Steve has chosen a workday, a Tuesday morning, so that the elves (technically, the gamers playing the elves) will never see it coming (or be at work).
Of course all hell breaks loose on that day at the office (Steve couldn't beg off work from his evil boss, Ms. Krakower). He can't get the computer to work fast enough, he's interrupted by a zillion idiotic tech support phone calls, his mother wants him to apply to M.I.T., and it's his two-year anniversary with his girlfriend Jenny, which he of course forgot to buy a gift for. And Krakower wants to fire him at the first available opportunity. Steve winds up juggling phone calls and instant messages while still leading the real-time assault on the elves, and in the process, takes himself on a revelatory journey of his own.
So why does the piece work on so many levels? For starters, Bielawski absolutely inhabits the role of Steve, nailing every bit of Leet-speak and geek-centric pop culture references imaginable (Star Trek:The Next Generation, South Park, Borat, etc.) and with the right balance of snark and pathos. The drama is heightened by the great direction from Grantom, who keeps things ebbing and flowing for Steve—as opposed to falling into that trap of having it at a high-strung level throughout. There are so many jokes that work during the show because Bielawski understands that while Steve is a definite nerd for playing in a fantasy world, he's also human, which gives him both character flaws and a heart.
There are several million hard-core gamers who will understand both the nuances of the language and the joy of total immersion in another world. Whether its sports, theatre, bridge club, or everyday life, a person who is immersed in any subject makes that perception his or her reality. And this lets Gamers achieve a universality that many plays with weightier subject matter often flop at. If this play isn't one of the hits of FringeNYC, I'll order my orcs and mages to attack at once.