In the bleak world of the future the Internet offers just about the only color in a grey, dreary world. And for a pedophile, it offers an escape.
Much like Alice going through the looking glass, a man named Sims (Robert Joy) has entered the Internet and created a beautiful Victorian mansion called “The Hideaway,” to which he invites selected guests. These are men who, like himself, are attracted to pre-pubescent girls.
Thus begins Jennifer Haley’s powerful new play The Nether, now having its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
As the play opens, Sims is being questioned in a Kafkaesque manner, full of contradictions and non-sequiturs, by a brusque bureaucrat named Morris (Jeanne Syquia). She is trying to determine who and where the Internet server is who is allowing Sims to enter and leave his illegal Hideaway at will. He, of course, denies everything and deflects her accusations.
From the grim gray room in which he has been detained, the set then evolves into a gorgeously outfitted Victorian sitting room and Sims enters wearing an elegant costume appropriate to that period. With him is a beautiful little girl with golden ringlets and puffed sleeves: Iris, who obviously dotes on him. Iris (Brighid Fleming) is a true coquette, dancing and twirling and obviously fulfilling his every fantasy.
But there is a penalty to be paid for getting “too close.” The girls are dispatched to “boarding school” and another girl, different only in name, takes her place.
Into this sexual fantasy house comes a client named Woodnut (Adam Haas Hunter) who is too shy to approach Iris physically, but falls in love with her instead.
Meanwhile, an older gentleman named Doyle (a superbly weary Dakin Matthews) is being interrogated in the gray room. He is apparently an operative who had been sent to spy on Sims, and to do so had spent so many pleasant hours in the Hideaway that he is contemplating “crossing over” to that fantasy world permanently.
Through the impeccable acting of everyone involved, the tight direction of Neel Keller, and Adrian Jones’ magnificent sets, this technology-riddled science fiction world seems both plausible and possible. You care about the plight of the protagonists—and you almost wish their dreams could really come true.
The Nether will continue Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 pm through April 14th at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City. Call 213-628-2772 for tickets.
Photo: Robert Joy and Brighid Fleming
Photo by Craig Schwartz