Monday, November 15, 2021



Brandon Bales and Justin Huen

The Atwater Playhouse (not to be confused with the Atwater Village Theatre Complex) is a well appointed jewel box: the new home of Moving Arts Theatre Company.  The World Premiere of  "@PLAYAZ" by Dana Schwartz is an ambitious melange of where our world may be headed.  

The 'dampanic'...   as I call it.. the C19 interruption of the lives of not only folks in the United States, but world wide, apparently is the source of this on line gaming idea.  Imagine Wayne's World tucked inside a stylish well appointed apartment. Charlie (Brandon Bales), Alan (Justin Huen) and Joe (Dustin Green ) rock what looks like a battle royal projected all over the walls of Justin Huen's expensive set. 

"Shit"  "Don't Cuss!!!" 

Charlie and Alan, pals from grade school,  attempt to create a video to promote their on line gaming project.  They need to keep an "E" for Everyone rating. It's not always easy when cuss words tumble like as natural as the rain in hip and natural 21st Century parlance. Schwartz lays it on thick for a reason. Have 'cuss' words become no longer taboo?

Charlie and Alan are in an odd bromance. Alan, a psychiatrist,  was married to Maddie. Charlie and Maddie were twins. Drugs and pain factor in.  Maddie is dead. Alan wrote the prescription that Maddie overdosed on.

As our 21st Century stumbles into the future, you may be sure that the Electronic Age of tweets and streaming and violent video games now advanced to real time play with killing at its core is on us. 

It may be fun, but it's a shame. 

Whether or not violent on line gaming or X Box at home adventures do a mental number on the players who are hooked on playing, may be discovered in time.  The jargon and the energy involved seems to say, dude,  "War is fun!!" .

Gone are the days of Pacman and Centipede where the only real threat was being eaten by a ghost or misfiring your laser at the critters out to get you. Once a kid had learned the pattern of the game, he could make a quarter last for a long, long time.  Maddie was a PacMan champ. Though she has died, her presence gives depth and humanity to both Charlie and Alan.  At intervals, each of these two of Schwartz's characters breaks the fourth wall to express some personal truth. These true feelings help us care about them beyond their jargon and buff exteriors.  

With one hundred thousand followers, Alan and Charlie may have an opportunity to monetize their hosting of an on line channel where aficionados of the gaming world can tune in to watch.  Or!!! On the upcoming special occasion, they invite other gamers to form teams to battle it out in real time with their crazy avatars.

Alan and Charlie have a nemesis. Joe, a great gamer, but otherwise a screw up (euphemism mine), wants to be a part of the team. In general, his situation is a sad one that messes up everything. The guys want to include him as a third member of their team, but Joe has bigger problems.  His negativity is a double edged sword.  As the story advances with more forbidden words, the language of the gamer, these forty something dudes are  totally absorbed in their gaming world. Alan's human condition rises to the surface when a cute buttinski, Joy (Amy Dellagiarino) chimes in.  Her singular female voice is, in fact.. only a voice. Joy is a gamer, too.  For widower, Alan,   the anticipation of an in person connection is foiled, but her "presence" is vital to the story.  The device of 'hearing' her on Alan's phone was fuzzy to me. 

The projections to bring the audience into the gaming world simply did not work.  A projection on the stage right wall kept blinking 'Computer... computer'.  If that was part of the show, it was distracting.

Sitting behind a guy with a big head made the experience a physical one. He'd lean one way and I'd lean the other in an attempt to catch the action (of which there is very little) on the stage. 

Darin Anthony's direction presents what amounts to a straight play with some interesting technical ideas.  Alan and Charlie may have a "bromance"  beyond their childhood friendship and being related by marriage. Joe is an odd ingredient.  Thanks to his being a pretty screwed up guy, it's that screwiness that may bump the premise just above the mundane. Projections of comments on the guys' Youtube channel as they blink up, projected on the upstage wall of the set are simply illegible. 

This first effort in their new Atwater space for Moving Arts deserves an audience.  

The cut line for this play: "Grownup gamer guys come to grips with real world challenges and ultimately realize that life, and friendship, are best lived in real time. An interactive, immersive dark comedy."


Dana Schwarts - Playwright



Directed by DARIN ANTHONY 



3191 Casitas Avenue

Los Angeles, California 90039

Tickets and information:  213 296 9274 


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