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ART & ABOUT: 'The Nether'

Go ask Iris for 'other world' justification

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

In a world of artificial intelligence and names like Siri-Apple, Alexa-Amazon, Watson-IBM, Bixby-Samsung, Viv-Samsung and Cortana-Microsoft does is creating you own online world, playground really be such a bad idea?

I'm not sure Screenwriter/ART Director Jennifer Hutton of THE NETHER currently in production at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre is one step ahead of us, or one step behind the times.



Sure all of the hi-tech gimmicks are here [here in the play or our culture?] from bots to avatars. However the idea of shut-in, independent, people struggling to live in a social world and escaping to their own little world is nothing new.

The Director must have had fun creating her own theatrical world and replicating THE NETHER's virtual world where people develop parallel "realms" that are different, alternate realities.

050219MorrisFrom the FEMINIST SPECTATOR:

Detective Morris (ANDREA YOUNG) interviews Papa (JORGE DE JESUS), an effete gentleman who continually slips Morris's attempts to call him a criminal because he procures under-aged girls – Avatars -- for interested men to exploit sexually and romantically in the Nether. The place he adjudicates is called The Hideaway, an elegantly constructed, faux-19th century world full of its own rules and regulations. The "people" who roam this realm are avatars, virtual substitutes for the anonymous strangers who enliven them. In the Hideaway, men like Woodnut (ZACHORY SIMON) seek sex with girls like the virginal but strangely seductive Iris (ERIN LITTLE). Papa, as he's known in the Hideaway, refuses to accept Morris's claim that the sexual violence he facilitates across the virtual divide is harmful.

050219NETHERhaleyThe problem for me is, as my mother would say, "This isn't the land of Oz, and you didn't fall down Alice's rabbit hole." Jennifer Haley, a Los Angeles writer specializing in the ethics of technology, has fashioned her script as a debate on what constitutes crime in a world of relative realities.

THE ART'S Kaitie Graves and Jennifer Hutton designed the parameters of THE NETHER on a dark, gloomy stage bare of color, a sullen life, absent of the elements in our reality. The Hideaway is essentially a bed where all the nether world activity takes place.



The ART'S Costume Design team of Andrea Young, Shelli Osborne, and Jennifer Hutton have created a futuristic look with Morris, in the style of a security investigator befuddled by individuals intent on escaping reality through this plays's version of artificial intelligence.



Like Most ART productions, this story is driven by the artful interaction between skilled actors depicting the plays characters' emotions, feelings, and behaviors:

050219HatchettPAPA – Befuddled by the government's intrusion in his personal, self-created 'world.' Papa prefers to be in his perfect-for-him private world he modified for his own skewed social preferences.

MORRIS – Morris is the driver of this story with strong determination to eliminate creative thought, good or bad, that could undermine the society she represents.

IRIS – Erin is the object of the NETHER visitor's desire. Thoughtful, curious, inquisitive, and eager to please, this youthful female avatar -- like the ones before her -- lose their usefulness only to face eradication and replacement by the next NETHER Iris.

DOYLE – (JESSE VALE) lends a agreeing presence to the NETHER as a curious associate eager to learn more about the unbridled, personal virtual debauchery.



Papa's frustration with realities encroaching on his private world forces him to make decisions on the viability of The NETHER and the possibility of society shutting down his private world.

The question I was left with, like Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy in Oz, is why was it so wrong for Papa to live out his dreams and desires free of modern day realities like SIRI and ALEXA questioning his activities in The Nether?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to the Jefferson Airplane and their hit WHITE RABBIT for titular inspiration.  The Across Town Repertory Theatre's The Nether continues on various days, times through May 12. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.

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