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Review: BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS - New Web Series Sets The Table For Suicide Prevention

First episode of new series sets THE TABLE for a compelling narrative about suicide awareness and prevention.

Review: BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS - New Web Series Sets The Table For Suicide Prevention

Filmmaker Mischa Ipp's big-thinking Little y company is developing a solid reputation for its socially relevant and impactful productions (Thread, All the times I did not see Potsdam, Weezy Goes Outside). Her latest venture is a probe into the sphere of grief ~ a fanciful yet forceful and moving dramatic series about teen suicide and the struggle to cope with its aftermath.

Under the direction of Daniel Tenenbaum, the premiere episode of Jeff Athey's BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS (airing online on February 19th) involves seven high schoolers in a high energy role-playing game much like Dungeons & Dragons.

As I watched the flow of the episode, I was absorbed in the rapid-fire exchanges among the players, each sculpting their fantasy land characters with fierce determination and clever improvisation. I was curious about the game itself and the rules that guided it, wondering where the story would take me. Little did I expect that by its end, I'd feel an unnerving chill down my spine.

It is action like this and the crew that drives it that makes for memorable film experiences.

Jason Chew's deft camera work highlights the expressions of each player in a way that gives definition to and familiarity with their distinctive personalities ~ attributes and aspirations that will certainly unfold in subsequent episodes.

Athey, the series creator and writer (one of three finalists in the 2020 Austin Film Festival International Script Competition), demonstrates his versatility and acting chops as Caleb, the Game Master. His fellow players ~ Jordan Cobb, Dorothea Gloria, Jay Reum, Caroline Smith, Issa Best, and Frankie Placidi ~ likewise add verve and intensity to the TRPG.

The game itself is engaging to watch as each player tries to outwit the other.

However, there is a discernible underlying tension that infuses the experience with a sense of gravitas and mystery. As the episode crescendos, it becomes clear that something more than a game is afoot. The players are carrying more than make believe characters on their shoulders. The hint to something deeper is uttered by Emma (Jordan Cobb): "Just because you can change your character doesn't mean you can change what's already happened."

What has already happened is the suicide of a friend. And thereby hangs the tale.

It's here that it is worth taking two notes from the film maker's page:

First, to recognize that BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS "was developed in accordance with the National Recommendations for Depicting Suicide developed by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention" in order "to deliver an authentic narrative involving suicide in a way that supports suicide prevention and awareness."

Second, to acknowledge that such table top games as Dungeons & Dragons have been used as therapeutic tools to help patients work through deeply personal issues including anxiety, depression, communication, and PTSD.

BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS sets The Table for what promises to be an engaging and compelling series dealing "with issues such as teen mental health, the complexities of exploring and accepting queer identity, and, ultimately, the good that gaming can bring to those that immerse themselves in their stories."

BASEMENTS & BUGBEARS Episode 1: Unlikely Adventures premieres online at at 7:00 p.m. EST on February 19th. On February 20th, it will be screened in conjunction with Jasper's Game Day's fundraiser for suicide awareness and prevention.

Photo credit to Ramy Mam

Little y ~ 917-213-5460 ~


From This Author - Herbert Paine

Herb Paine ~ Herb has served as Senior Contributing Editor and lead reviewer for BWW's Phoenix Metro Region since 2014. He has been acclaimed as BEST THEATRE CRITIC by PHOENIX magazin... (read more about this author)

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