By Lizzie Guest; Directed by Melissa Mowry
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.21.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Sarah Moore on 10.18.18
BOTTOM LINE: A fun high school story about a girl who loves The Sims.
If you had known you would be tried in court for your virtual crimes, would you have treated your Sims better? This is the premise of Lizzie Guest’s Fringe play (DE)CODED—Lizzie plays Hannah, an awkward, angsty, 18-year-old video game nerd, who recreates her bullying high school classmates in her game of The Sims (here called Zims). The story is undeniably clever, and relatable for any millennial who grew up building neighborhoods and characters until time no longer existed. This concept, combined with a typical high school story, makes for an entertaining evening.
First, we are introduced to Hannah and others at her high school. Hannah's crush Johnny (Jake Roberson) is a popular guy, but nicer than he appears. There is also Hannah's theater-nerd best friend Reese (Spencer Perlman), (non-theater-) nerd Skylar (Carlos D. Garcia), and Skylar's fraternal twin brother Skip (Steven Gamble), who happens to be a jock. The characters are stereotypes, but that’s kind of the point. All of the actors are very funny and capable.
Hannah is then transported into the game, where Reese is a superstar singer, Johnny is her husband, and there is an astronaut, Hannah 2 (Mary Berko), who is the beautiful blonde Hannah wishes she were. Hannah is greeted in Wishing Valley Springs (the fictional video game neighborhood) by Rochelle, a hilarious and engaging Rosharra Francis. She’s then put on trial by all the unhappy Zims whose lives she has ruined (Johnny and Hannah 2 are not present—they’re pretty happy). Hannah is trapped in this computer town until she can solve all their problems.
The focus of (DE)CODED sometimes drifts—a lot of time is spent on Elyse (Sofia Riba) and her anger at how Hannah turned her into a literal whore and homewrecker. The point of this plot line isn’t really clear. And (DE)CODED seems to drag in its second half, and might be confusing to those who have never played The Sims. But especially for those who have, (DE)CODED is fun and creative; when I left, all I wanted to do was go play The Sims.
((DE)CODED plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 21, 2018. Meet at the ORANGE FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour 45 minutes. Performances are Fri 10/12 at 7:45, Sun 10/14 at 5:30, Mon 10/15 at 5:30, Wed 10/17 at 7:15, and Sun 10/21 at 3:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org.)
(DE)CODED is by Lizzie Guest. Directed by Melissa Mowry. Stage Manager is Tracey Remarais. Art Director is Anthony Patryn. Voiceovers by Matthew Sims.
The cast is Lizzie Guest, Mary Berko, Rosharra Francis, Jake Roberson, Spencer Perlman, Sofia Riba, Steven Gamble, Carlos D. Garcia, Joshua R. Pyne, Lily Donahue, Jake Phillips, Xandra Schultz, Melissa Eddy Quilty, Sam Swanson, and Cynthia Whitman.