Review by Max D’Ambrosio – Showbill.ca Writer
Jennifer Haley’s The Nether is a play that haunts the mind like a digital ghost.
The work’s events spring from a gritty sci-fi-noir investigation – an undercover officer going by the alias Woodnut (Douglas Ennenberg) has infiltrated a virtual reality “realm” called the Hideaway, part of a wider VR network known as the Nether, and made contact with a girl called Iris (Julia Siedlanowska). In the aftermath, hard-nosed detective Morris (Lissa Neptuno) is interrogating both the Hideaway’s patriarch “Papa” Sims (David Bloom) and a man called Doyle (Linden Banks).
The story blossoms into an intricate fractal web of science fiction intrigue, growing and advancing with each scene, before collapsing into a piercingly powerful resolution.
Despite its sophistication, the plot remains clear and comprehensible to the audience, without a single moment of unwanted confusion for even a moderately attentive viewer.
The play jumps backward and forward frequently in time, yet they are so perfectly timed that one never feels lost. With Chris Lamb’s fine direction, where there is purposeful uncertainty or mystery, it is tantalizing rather than frustrating, pulling the audience along through undeniable narrative momentum.
Well-judged minimal stage design and well-chosen props aid in this thrilling progression, while a top-notch cast is the engine that powers it. Each is adept at handling both big, emotional moments and subtle, everyday realism in their behaviour, despite the stranger aspects of the ways in which their characters use technology to interact and present themselves.
The Bottom Line
The Nether is an insightful and riveting rumination on the virtual era looming in our potential future, beautiful and terrible in its strangeness and its familiarity. It’s guaranteed to infect your thoughts like virulent malware – but in the very best way.