BWW Review: Theater Schmeater's NEIGHBORHOOD 3 Confounds with Little Payoff
Let me assure you that you need not have seen "Neighborhood 1" or "Neighborhood 2" in order to understand Theater Schmeater's current show "Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" for two reasons. First, there are no such things as "Neighborhood 1" or "Neighborhood 2" as the title does not refer to any kind of play trilogy. And second, I don't think even two prequels would be enough to make this show make sense.
In this neighborhood, the local teens are obsessed with the hot new video game, "Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" that uses GPS to map the player's own area to render as the game world. But as the kids continue to play the game, the lines between the game world and their real world begin to blur and they begin to wonder if they're killing zombies or their own neighbors.
Sounds like a simple enough premise and it might have had a chance to succeed if it weren't for playwright Jennifer Haley's completely incoherent structure. From the beginning of the 90-minute play to the end she would introduce characters, do the scantest bit of character development and then abandon the character for the rest of the play in favor of introducing a new character. This happens all the way through so you can never latch onto any character nor are you ever really sure who you're watching or why. What's this person's intention? Why do we need to care about them? What do they want from this story? We have no idea since we just met them and then we never see them again for any kind of payoff. Not only that but she keeps mentioning other characters in conversation that would seem to be integral to what little plot there is but we never get to meet them and so there's no payoff there either. One of the few times we get to see the same character twice is after we've already been vaguely told that she was killed ... I think. If that weren't bad enough, they keep dropping plot points that are never brought up again.
To make things even more confusing, director Andrew Shanks has some of the cast playing multiple characters without much distinction between the characters so we spend the majority of the scene wondering if this is the same character we saw before and if so, why are they acting like this? The ensemble does what they can with the piece but without the ability to get to know any of the characters there's no reason to care for any of them. And many who are playing multiple characters need to work on making them individual as that lack of individuality only led to more confusion.
There's an old adage in any kind of entertainment that if something is mentioned or brought up in a script/book/movie/play then it must be for a reason. Haley doesn't seem to care about any of that and seems to have written this with the idea that all her characters or plot points are like Kleenex ... disposable. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Theater Schmeater's "Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" a confounded NAH. And one final point of confusion is that title. I never did quite figure out what they were requisitioning or why it might cause doom.
"Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" performs at Theater Schmeater through October 14th. For tickets for information visit them online at www.schmeater.org.