mONSTER, by Sam Graber, is the newest production of Swandive Theatre is currently playing at the Southern Theater. The show takes place in a college dorm room in 1994, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, and a monster seems to lurk within. Walking into the theater I was very impressed by the set design, and I was even more impressed by all the design aspects as the play went on. All of the design aspects fit wonderfully into the Southern’s space. Sound design (Kevin Spinger), Scenic Design (Sean McArdle), Production Design (Damon Runnals), Lighting design (Jesse Cogswell) and Costume Design(Lisa Conley) worked together wonderfully, it tied together a college dorm room and visual representation of the internet into the creepy world that the play inhabits with great skill.
Design aside, I felt very frustrated watching this play. As background for this frustration, my day job is being an electrical engineer. For years I have worked by being given a technical problem and then building a solution to it. My engineering colleagues and I discuss problems in certain way, and the language that I heard on the stage sounded as foreign to me as an engineer as another language is. While watching the play I kept searching for a technical explanation of this monster, to understand what symptoms were indicating the root cause so that a solution could be discussed. It seems that the monster is the cyberbullying and social media obsession that the internet has enabled, but it seems odd to place these problems into 1994, a year when the internet was a very different thing, after all google didn't even exist yet.
That being said, the talent onstage was very apparent. The three actors took on this story and tricky dialogue with great skill. In a show like this it is important to manage the dark and the light. Balance the heaviness of the “monster” with some comedy and they all did that well. Kelsey McMahon was Brill, the techie who is protecting the world from the internet, Jamie Fields is Nessa, Brill’s roommate, and Avi Aharoni is the floor’s RA or Resident Advisor.
If you would like to see some very impressive design work, come see Monster at the Southern. If you think that you might be frustrated by the lack of technical definition like me maybe give this show a pass.
It plays at the Southern Theater until October 7
Tickets can be found here
*Photo courtesy of Swandive Theatre