"Viral" by Mac Rogers. Directed by Jordana Williams.
Produced by Gideon Productions for the New York International Fringe Festival.
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., NYC.
Aug. 15 - 26, 2009. (CLOSED)
Meredith (Amy Lynn Stewart) finds their website. She is hesitant. She chats a moment, signs off, signs on again, and eventually she travels to Portland, OR, for a meeting in their apartment. Colin (Kent Meister) yells at Geena (Rebecca Comtois) for typing the wrong phrases, for frightening Meredith off. Then he dictates Geena's response. They are all nervous. Meredith is the answer to their money problems -- only she doesn't know it. She thinks they are a support group.
Fill in whatever plot details you want – and this is still an intriguing set up. Playwright Mac Rogers' dark comedy is about difficult choices. It's inhabited by a mismatched, bizarre quartet. The trio who live in the apartment are losers -- marginally employed and unemployed, not very bright, and a minority even in the kinky video-sex world they inhabit. But they look like saints when their video distributor (Jonathan Pereira) shows up to make a deal.
Meredith, who has agreed to the video, is lovely, educated, sophisticated – and despairing. She wants to stop her pain peacefully and doesn't know how to begin. We never learn her story – which is one strength of the play. We can guess it. In one confrontation, Geena challenges Meredith's mystery by creating half a dozen rapid-fire scenarios. And as Geena speculates, the drama grows closer to us, somehow touching lightly on our own disappointments and despair.
Sharing too much of the plot will ruin the experience of the unexpected turns in this well-crafted play. Mac Rogers is always on his toes. Just when the plot starts to vacation, he unleashes Meredith as aggressor and she is so fierce it seems that the play will totally change course. It doesn't; it just deepens. Surprisingly Meredith gets her last wish, and the trio of losers begin a journey toward healing. During the first intriguing hour of the play, no one could have predicted this or that "Viral" would become a feminist drama.
Mac Rogers is the recipient of two FringeNYC overall excellence awards for the drama "Hail, Satan" (2007) and his musical "Fleet Week" (2005). "Universal Robots" was named Best Off Off-Broadway play by ITBA and nominated for several 2009 New York Innovative Theatre awards. He is a playwright to watch and support.