The Dudleys! A Family Game

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We saw this touching, funny, sad, lovely play this afternoon, at my brother’s recommendation. He has a much more cogent review on his site (http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/showpage.php?t=dudl10813); these are just some random reflections.

First, the play is amazingly inventive and sophisticated, particularly when considering its modest ticket price of $15, featuring not only a terrific use of projections, but also some great and well-executed choreography. These devices are all enlisted to the premise of life as a video game. More specifically, a 1980s Atari video game. With levels and lives and bosses. Start game.

And so we do. It’s the day after Tom, the father of the Dudley family, has died. And we are taken through various levels as the family struggles to feel, absorb, understand, and come to grips with this information. And ultimately, this game is too hard.

If that makes it sound like the play is sad, well, in part it is, and it touched me because death of the father does resonate and always will. But the play is also riotously funny, from the careful 64 pixel graphics that ornamented each scene — the dinner table and garden have these clunky pixelized flowers, Derek’s t-shirt sports a pixelized skull-and-crossbones, and numerous other sly and subtle touches — to the silly, simple-minded, two-dimensional dances with strings of semi-identical characters complementing the projected game screen imagery. The race between the brothers at the opening and the encounter with the zombies at the haunted cancer clinic run by Aunt Meg were particularly funny, with hokey video game devices punctuating the action, their very cheesiness and familiarity making you — well, me at least — laugh in rueful recognition of wasted hours gone by.

Which is of course one of the play’s points.  And in that, it reminded me of Our Town, that we live side by side and just don’t SEE, until it’s too late. And meanwhile we’re playing video games and thinking that’s important…

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