It’s easy to see why Madhuri Shekar’s play, In Love and Warcraft, has been frequently produced in regional theaters over the past few years. It’s simple, yet it exudes charm in a very endearing way. The central premise of a college gamer-girl struggling with love and sex, could have been too niche for general audiences, but the play achieves a nice balance between the gaming world and the more widely relatable complexities of love, sex and youth.
This production, by What a Nice Production at Theatre N16, and directed by David Thackeray, is straightforward and unassuming in its telling of the story. The intimate space, sparse design and use of a traverse stage all build to engaging and effective staging. The performances bordered on caricatural at times, a common trap to fall in when playing “nerdy” characters, but they narrowly evaded this trap with a keen sense of emotional honesty and strong delivery of the cleverly written text.
Charlotte Nice, the artistic director of the theatre company, plays Evie, a quirky and likable, yet somewhat reclusive 22-year-old college senior, who is wrapped up in her online gaming world. She also runs an unofficial business at her school, where she helps people in rocky relationship to write love letters to their significant others. Yet despite her skill at flowery love language, she has yet to experience any of these feelings herself. This begins to change when she becomes involved with Raul (Daniel McKee), a kind and seemingly understanding boy she meets through her business. Things becomes complicated, however, when she realizes that she has no desire to have sex at all, much to the frustration of Raul, and Evie’s sexually liberal roommate, Kitty (Charlotte Peak).
The writing is intelligent, well-constructed, engaging, and very earnest. However, I was highly disappointed with how Shekar chose to end the play (I’ll try not to spoil anything, but be warned that you will probably be able to infer how the play ends through what I’m going to say). Much of the play would suggest that Evie could fall into the category of people who identify as heteroromantic asexual (people who feel emotional or romantic attraction to people of the opposite gender, but feel no sexual attraction to anyone). Asexuality is a sexual orientation that, in general, tends to be ignored and invalidated by many people in today’s society. Thus, I was intrigued when it seemed that this play was opening up a dialogue about asexuality and portraying it in a constructive light. The ending, however, proved me wrong. Suffice it to say that Shekar took a more traditional approach than I thought she would, perpetuating the harmful stereotype that people who feel no sexual attraction actually just “haven’t found the right person yet.” Granted, Shekar herself never labels Evie as asexual (though the text strongly suggests it), and Evie’s own romantic and sexual journey is just as valid as anyone else’s. Yet I was disappointed to find that the play was not the bold and socially progressive statement that I hoped it would be, and perhaps that it should have been.
However, I’ll get off my soapbox now and once again say that this was a charming and engaging evening at the theatre, done effectively by What a Nice Production.
By Joe Weinberg