A great and stylistic first act gives way to suspenseless repetition in the second. The delight of 6969 is in seeing the illusory characters of the Internet brought to life, and when we lose that, we lose momentum too. Still, that suspenseful first act is an example of excellent direction and delightfully spry writing.
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
The Internet is a scary place, not just because you can find psychopathic killers who think they're Jesus, nymphomaniac girl geniuses, lonely fourteen-year-old boys, and crazy white gangsters, but because they can find you, too. And just because it's not real doesn't mean it can't reach out and cut you all the same. Jordan Seavey's script, 6969, is all the more frightening because it's based on a true story, and while his condensation of that plot makes it seem less impressive, the show itself is a marvelous adaptation of the frenzy and paranoia of the Internet. Mark, our laptop-savvy hero, is a normal sixteen-year-old boy, but when he goes online and meets John, his entire life changes--John introduces him to Samantha, Lil' Tim finds him through Samantha, Damien dials-up looking for Samantha, and Kathy shows up after accidentally getting an e-mail from Mark meant for John. Sound confusing? Good. You're now caught as much in the web as Mark.
Director Matthew Hopkins has done a brilliant job of staging the elaborate procession of characters: he surrounds Mark with five transparent blue scrims, each of which hangs from chains in the ceiling. The online characters show up behind these scrims, like instant-messenger windows, and call out to him through the static of the Internet, like electronic ghosts. As more characters are introduced, they surround him, and, in the many dream sequences, pass through the barrier between scrims to invade Mark's personal space. This makes for a very vivid and fluid first act, driven by the relentless pacing of Seavey's effortless command of young adult dialog, which in turn is presented by the hyperactive Max Rosenak, who plays John, and also by Boo Killebrew, who plays the delightfully adolescent Samantha. Ryan Purcell, who plays Mark, has the perfect mix of innocence and astonishment, but he's stuck playing the straight man, which makes him the least interesting (though most convincing) of the wild cast.
Where things run into trouble is the second act, which loses the illusory presentation of the first. The show is forced to focus exclusively on Mark and John, which changes both the tone and momentum. It also goes on far too long, swinging between repetition and tedium: once we learn the secret of the first act, we need to skip ahead to the climax of the second, and there isn't much to come back to after the intermission. Instead, we actually lose a lot of the tension and, over time, our sympathy for the characters dwindles.
We go to the theater to dream, not to wake up. Therefore, I think we need to call a code 6969 on the final act of the play 6969: watching the illusion dismantled isn't as entertaining as seeing it set up and sustained.
59E59 Theaters: Theater C (59 East 59th Street)
Tickets (212-279-4200): $18.00
Performances: Wednesday-Saturday @ 8:30
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.