Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

The Game
PlayMakers Repertory Company
Review by Garrett Southerland

Lucas Dixon and Megan Ketch
Photo by HuthPhoto
A lot has been made of the dangers of the virtual world and the risk of people "checking out" from real life in search of something safer and more comforting online. In its world premiere at Playmakers Repertory Company, The Game takes a humorous yet poignant look at the gap between the real and the virtual. The production will play be at the Paul Green Theatre at UNC's Center for Dramatic Art through April 28.

Playwright Bekah Brunstetter has returned to her alma mater of UNC-Chapel Hill, the home of PlayMakers Repertory Company, and PlayMakers' @PLAY new works initiative supported this commission. Brunstetter's career has been exciting to follow. She was Emmy-nominated for her work on the NBC drama "This is Us," and the 2017 Playmakers production of her play The Cake impressed this reviewer so much that I returned to see it a second time. This must be a particularly exciting time for Ms. Brunstetter: This world premiere play follows on the coattails of her Broadway debut as the bookwriter for the new musical The Notebook, which opened one month ago.

The Game gives us the story of Alyssa (Megan Ketch), whose husband Homer (Lucas Dixon) has lost his job and has taken to spending his waking hours playing an online game. In desperation to get him to focus on anything else, she connects online with four other women who have similar problems with their significant others to try to figure out what to do. Their solution provides a close parallel to Aristophanes' Lysistrata, which Brunstetter took as inspiration for this work: They decide to withhold sex in an attempt to change their partners' behavior, just as Lysistrata convinced the women in her community to withhold sex from their partners in an attempt to end the Peloponnesian war.

The entire cast is quite enjoyable, but the standout for me is Cinny Strickland, whose comedic instincts are quite strong in the role of Myra. Whether it's the writing or the cast who get the credit, some of these characters reminded me of some of my relatives in real life.

Also worthy of special mention are the projections and media design by Tao Wang, which are used briefly near the end of the play but to great effect. Director Vivienne Benesch captures the big idea of The Game very effectively, observing that the play "offers survival strategies for making the most of both the virtual and real worlds... Despite the many things that separate and distract us from each other, we can't go it alone." Dramaturg Jacqueline E. Lawton adds that "We learn that games can give a sense of hope and community... Games allow us to make choices when life sometimes doesn't give us options. Games let us try again." It's easy to see why virtual reality might be tempting, but ultimately, if we maintain a healthy relationship with it, the virtual world sends us back to the real world with clues about how to live.

The Game, presented by PlayMakers Repertory Company, runs through April 28, 2024, at UNC's Center for Dramatic Art, Paul Green Theatre, 150 Country Club Road, Chapel Hill NC. For tickets and information, please visit or call 919-962-7529.

Playwright: Bekah Brunstetter
Director: Vivienne Benesch
Scenic Design: Lee Savage
Costume Design: Pamela A. Bond
Lighting Design: Carolina Ortiz Herrera
Projection and Media Design: Tao Wang
Sound Design: Kate Marvin

Homer: Lucas Dixon
Cleo: Elizabeth Dye
Rhonda: Kathryn Hunter-Williams
Alyssa: Megan Ketch
Myra: Cinny Strickland
Jen: Sanjana Taskar