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BWW Review: Flying V's INITIATIVE is a Fitting Tribute to Dungeons & Dragons

Flying V's INITIATIVE is a Fitting Tribute to Dungeons and Dragons

BWW Review:  Flying V's INITIATIVE is a Fitting Tribute to Dungeons & Dragons

For those of you who, like me, have loved the work of Flying V, there is great news, for now and the (hopefully near) future. After a hiatus marked by some internal turmoil, they have initiated "Under the Wing," an artist- driven program that unleashes the creativity of Flying V company members and associated artists. This actor-directed venture has created, with Flying V's blessing, an online staged reading of a fun, fascinating, and deeply moving play-Jacob York's Initiative.

Directed by Chris Rushing, and with a cast whose talents nearly burst out of the screen, Initiative examines the world of gaming - "Dungeons and Dragons" in this case-and the response of one small circle of players to a cancer diagnosis in their midst. As the disease takes its toll, the group continues to meet and rallies around their friend as his condition deteriorates, using the principles of the game to give him a vision of a future he may not live to see. Relationships crumble and are put back together, there's a wedding (for real, but...), and although the end is in some sense preordained there is still room for joy and celebration.

For those who haven't played the game themselves (that would include yours truly) the play is a rewarding insight into the fertility of imagination that abounds with games like this. You choose a character, creating an avatar of sorts-which can be loosely based on how you understand yourself, but can just as easily be a way to get away from your own reality. Once in the world of the game there are rules, of course, but the beauty of "Dungeons and Dragons" is that they inspire the imagination, rather than inhibit it.

The chief constraint comes in the roll of the dice - the D20, to be precise, whose results dictate how you will fare from one adventure to the next. But even as events unfold, there is a tension between what's pre-ordained and what is within your power, and it is in this tension that the game, the play, and life itself retains its power.

Justin Bell, as Tyrone, has the gravitas expected of the Dungeon Master, whose DM book offers guidance on the game's every move. His compassion for David (the charismatic Danny Cackley) is tempered by the fact that, book in hand, there is only so much he can do. Maria Simpkins positively shines as Meg, the love of Dave's life, whose determination to be with Dave, in sickness and, well, in sickness, is the linchpin here.

Simpkins' charm and exuberance are matched by Dylan Arredondo's Bernie-the gamer who relishes being the 'bad-guy' character in every scenario, whether he's getting in touch with his inner Orc or browbeating Dave as the English Literature Professor Sprung From Dante's Ninth Circle (this avatar has a fan club already, hardly surprising). Meanwhile, Em Whitworth is pitch-perfect as the slacker Skye, who's too busy scrolling her cellphone to play half the time, but who still loves showing up as a monster or two. Michael Tarver's spectral presence as Shade, meanwhile, gives us just enough doom and gloom without sucking the life out of us.

For now, we will have to settle for the Zoom version of Initiative - that's how the D20 rolls these days. But it would be positively criminal if it weren't eventually staged by a company as multi-talented as this one. Your imagination is the key-which come to think of it is rather the point of live theatre, no matter which medium it uses to reach out to you.

Rest assured that once Initiative is on its feet, the fights, costumes, sound and light cues will amaze and delight. Flying V is the perfect company to stage this show in the near future.

Tickets for this online staged reading are Pay What You Can, and given the strength of this offering I'd advise you pony up, big-time, to support "Under The Wing" and its efforts, while we wait for Flying V's next theatrical production.

[Production Poster Artwork by: Fiverr.]

Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, with one intermission.

Initiative is having Pay-What-You-Can online screenings through April >>. For tickets, and for more information about Flying V, visit: .

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From This Author - Andrew White