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BWW Review: Joel Schumacher Directs Virtual Reality Drama NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM

Earlier this year, playwright Jennifer Haley seriously creeped out Off-Broadway audiences with her futuristic drama, THE NETHER, where an advanced version of the Internet makes it possible for pedophiles to act out their fantasies in a virtual world without children being involved, bringing up the question of whether or not an offense is being committed.

Eric Folks and Madeline Mahoney (Photo: Hunter Canning)

Now The Flea Theater is presenting an earlier work where she also delves into a futuristic word of virtual reality, NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM. The plot has all the makings of a mindlessly chilling summer movie blockbuster. In a typically average suburban cul-de-sac, teenagers are obsessing over the third version of a popular video game that recreates each player's neighborhood with exacting detail, including their own homes.

Players win points by finding hidden weapons, torturing pets and killing zombies who bear striking resemblances to their neighbors. The point is that adults are unaware of the kind of game their children are playing and the kids are losing their ability to differentiate between what's real and what's virtual. The results, naturally, get bloody.

Such a scenario seems ripe for a production that will take full advantage of modern stage technology, but The Flea's mounting is low-budget affair played on a colorful, but static, unit set.

Hollywood director Joel Schumacher (ST. ELMO'S FIRE, BATMAN FOREVER), who has no theatre credits in his bio, helms a company of fifteen young non-union actors; The Flea's resident company known as The Bats. Lackluster staging makes the actors seem crammed into the 70-minute play that's made of loosely connected scenes, each involving a handful of characters, and the evening comes off looking like a college-level acting showcase, with twentysomethings playing both teens and their parents.

If NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM is in anyway as intriguing as THE NETHER, there's no way to tell based on this under-guided production.

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From This Author Michael Dale