Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Puny Humans" Frames the Male vs. Female Gaming Debate with Spot-On Accuracy

(poster by Peter Hon)
Puny Humans
Annex Theatre
through May 14, 2016

Puny Humans, a new play co-written by Bret Fetzer and Keiko Green, is a fascinating look at what comic conventions have become, and even gives a bit of history (via Cole Hornaday's character of a comics seller) about how they started. The overarching theme of the play is that we all think we're "puny" and wish not to be, so we try to find ways to assume the heroic side of ourselves and if we can't live it, all the time, we can at least hope people see us that way.

Director Gavin Reub manages a very large cast (13) on the tiny stage where a half-dozen storylines interweave among ComiCon attendees ranging from old gamers to young bloggers. The storylines include a budding love triangle (Te Yelland, Grace Carmack and Kevin Bordi), a mom supporting her "spectrum" daughter (Heather Persinger and Rachel Guyer-Mafune), two long-time gamer friends growing apart (David Rollison and Ben McFadden), an older movie star living off old fame (Patty Bonnell) and a younger star trying to live off current fame (Nic Morden), a teen blogger who is trying to make a splash and isn't sure how to manage anti-woman troll commentary (Zenaida Smith), and a reporter (Kelly Johnson) who doesn't want to be there, an organizer who barely keeps it together (Lauryn Hochberg) and the comics seller.

Some of the stories are funny, some poignant, some political. Every cast member is perfectly cast. Smith's lines are so reminiscent of Green's speech patterns that you could substitute Green in seamlessly to her own play - and Green's dialogue hits all the current tropes about women and gaming and misogyny with spot-on accuracy. The inclusion of issues of unwanted pregnancy and perspectives of those differently-abled are also seamlessly woven in.

The result is a very smart play, despite the perils of two playwrights potentially messing each other up (they don't), and its length (which could be trimmed, but doesn't feel long). This is a fun world and a nice peek inside a culture that maybe you haven't partaken of - if you don't like crowds or commercialism.

You have one weekend left to see it! You needn't be a gamer or comics lover to follow any stories, but if you are either, there are a ton of inside jokes (many of which flew right over my head, but I knew they were there). Kudos to Gwyn Skone for great lighting, K.D. Schill for fantastic costumes on the cheap, and an amazing sound design by Alex Potter. or 206.728.0933

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