BWW Review: TEH INTERNET IS SERIOUS BUSINESS from WET brings the Lulz and Even Some Thoughtz
First and foremost, this is not a typo. The current show from Washington Ensemble Theatre is titled "Teh Internet is Serious Business" no matter how many times spell check tries to auto correct it for me. And with a title like that you might assume that this will just be a series of computer jokes like having incarnations of Grumpy Cat or sarcastic Willy Wonka Memes live trolling during the show and while all of that happens, what also happens is a fascinating look at a key part of internet history as well as a highly inventive show with some innovative staging.
Surrounding the now infamous hacking of several religious, financial and governmental groups by the hacker collective Anonymous the show begins as these now infamous hackers first come together. For the most part, we're only ever introduced to them through names like AVunit and Pwnsauce as they only know each other through chat rooms and hacker reputation and that's how they like it. Their anonymity, even to each other, is what keeps them safe and out of the hands of the police. But as the core group becomes stronger and more organized they too become more polarized as to what their mission should be. Should they just continue to troll certain people and organizations or should they use their power for a more public purpose and try to work within the system as well. The polarization causes some in the group to retaliate against others by doxing them, outing their real names and details on the internet. And as the group becomes more and more fractured, the easier it becomes for the police to find their way in.
But beyond the history of the group and the events that surrounded their actions, Tim Price's play does a beautiful job of diving into the personalities of the members of the group and examines why they would gravitate toward this world and how even the trolls on the internet can form a sort of family. And director Wayne Rawley does a lovely job of keeping that sense of family alive even in the midst of all the comedy and racial and homophobic slurs from the trolls. And I also have to commend the amazing set and lighting design from Tristan Roberson as he's incorporated a light grid into the floor of the stage that was practically another character in the piece.
The extremely high energy ensemble keeps their frenetic pace from the first second to the last, from the opening dance number (yes, dance number) to their final keystroke. As the eight core members of LulzSec, the leaders of Anonymous, Jeffrey Azevedo as Tflow, Samie Spring Detzer as NarcoTroll, NiCK Edwards as Tuxedo, Rachel Guyer-Mafune as Kayla, Kevin Kelly as Pwnsauce, Arjune Pande as Topiary, Zenaida Smith as AVunit, and Jordan-Michael Whidbey as Sabu do an excellent job communicating the strong bond between these hackers and their eventual dissolution due to infighting and self-preservation. They communicate brilliantly not only the mentality of the hacker but also the sense of isolation and loneliness that would draw them into this world in the first place. The remaining ensemble fill out the rest of the computer world with a gleeful crassness making the trolling harsh but still funny.
If you're not at all a computer person you may find some of the dialog a bit confusing as they actually do get into some coding in a lyrical way but personally I found it fascinating the way they incorporated the real-world terminology into the performance. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give WET's "Teh Internet is Serious Business" a YAY with plenty of LULZ. And we can all use more LULZ, just hopefully not at the expense of others.
"Teh Internet is Serious Business" from Washington Ensemble Theatre performs at 12th Avenue Arts through October 2nd. For tickets or information visit them online at www.washingtonensemble.org.