Viral ran as one of the 201 shows in the 2009 Fringe Festival; it is now being extended as part of the Fringe Encores series and runs at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) on 9/14 @ 9, 9/20 @ 1, 9/24 @ 7, 9/26 @ 2, and 9/27 @ 6. Tickets are only $18.
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
The most addictive thing about Mac Rogers's writing is that even when his characters say the darnedest things, you never for one second doubt that that's exactly what they'd say. In his new play Viral, the line that hits home is when the tightly wound Colin (Kent Meister) turns to his sweetly nervy sister, Geena (Rebecca Comtois), and warns her to be very careful "not to give [Meredith] any idea that there might be a reason to stay alive." Meredith (Amy Lynn Stewart), by the way, is a commandingly rational and direct depressive, who has come to Colin looking for a way to painlessly die...and Colin desperately wants her to go through with it so that he can film her final moments. And no, it's not sweet or anything, as their associate Jarvis (Matthew Trumbull) reminds us every time he gets that wide-eyed look and runs off stage to go masturbate. Or--and this is how good and oddly plausible Rogers's writing is--maybe it is sweet: Colin wants the footage because it's the purest form of their sexual fetish (a snuff film being the exact opposite of what they want).
The entire production is terrifically done, from Jordana Williams's staging of an Internet chat room to her comic uses of props (like a pizza box, a sofa cover, or the video camera), all of which enhance our understanding of each character, and drastically expand the canvas on which Rogers is so fervently painting. The only element that seems a bit over-the-top, all things considered, is Snow (Jonathan Pereira), a sleazy underground film producer who Colin plans to sell the tape to. Still, even these scenes serve a valuable purpose; in this case, they provide us with a deepened understanding of Meredith's condition--her willingness to do whatever it takes to simply die.
Of course, nothing's that simple--and that's where the cast really shines. Trumbull and Comtois often get typecast (because they do it so well) playing neurotic or ditzy--but in Viral, they play full-on characters, all the more richly human for the fact that they're allowed to acknowledge their embarrassing glory. And then there's Stewart, who manages to show the complexities of her inner conflict without ever losing her surface cool--until it's appropriate to do so, that is. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "Absolute box-office poison," and 5 being "More addictive than love," Viral gets a 4.5.
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.