See you in heaven, hell, or The Nether

The Nether, written by Jennifer Haley, is a kind of play that is a pleasure to read and begs to be reread. It compels you to turn the page on certain occasions, while on other put it down and pace around the room to ruminate.

“We want someone to run with us to the dark side.” That is, satisfy a fundamental desire to have someone truly understand and accept us — flaws and perversions notwithstanding. The play revolves around this truism while touching on themes like playing God, imagination and reality as a shared space in the mind, and online privacy ethics.

A detective is set to track felonious affairs (one of which involves men and children) that might be happening somewhere in The Nether, a place which can be described as both a paradise and the darkest corner of the Internet. It may not sound ground-breaking — sex crimes and cyberspace, what’s new? — but Haley’s plot and philosophizing, how far she dares explore these aberrations without compromising artistic integrity, make it an irresistible ride. Like any good story, it has characters that are at once unique and familiar; and like any good storytelling, it will have predictable twists that will shock you anyway.

To close its fourth season, Red Turnip Theater is staging The Nether, featuring Bernardo Bernardo, Bodjie Pascua, Alba Berenguer-Testa, Junyka Santarin, TJ Trinidad, and Jenny Jamora. Ana Abad Santos takes on directorial duties.

It’s the next level of thrill for me: to see the story on paper unravel onstage, more importantly how the virtual, futuristic landscape will be translated in theater. As Santos says, “[The Nether] bravely dives into the horrors of man, the unspeakable, and still makes sense of it. It’s about our present journey into the big unknown, that other world we call the Internet. And to present this advanced concept on a very basic traditional medium, which is the stage, is so exciting.”

My expectations may have just skyrocketed.

—Originally published on GIST

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