Reviews – stage and games

Reviews – stage and games


All My Sons

Live Arts
Through June 17

stage

All My Sons, set in the backyard of an emotionally scarred American family a year after the end of World War II, was the play that launched Arthur Miller’s career. Soon after its colossal—and completely unexpected—success, he felt free to abandon the rigid structure of Greek tragedy and to cease emulating those gurus of strict realism, Chekhov and Ibsen. The result: Death of a Salesman.
    Which doesn’t mean that Live Arts is serving up Miller lite. The production is a welcome breather from the cutting-edge fare community theaters so often present in order to stay hip. Also, All My Sons’ main themes—the abyss between economics and ethics, and between individual families and the human family, during wartime—are unmistakably relevant today.
    Whether sticking to tradition or experimenting, Miller was a master at sprinkling dramatic elements into a day-to-day rhythm, and gradually unearthing his characters’ concerns and motives. For instance, the character of Dr. Jim Bayliss (Bill LeSueur, who by day is C-VILLE’s art director), a friend of the Keller family who has no apparent purpose beyond lending the proceedings some mild comic energy, ends up delivering a poetic speech that crystallizes everything in the play that’s been boiling up underneath the surface.
    Director William Rough is tuned in to Miller’s intentions. The general tenor of every scene, with their shifting angles and multicolored tones—as well as the overall complex pacing—feel right. Of the 10-member cast, Thomas Burke as Joe Keller, Linda Waller as his wife, Kate, and Chris Estey as their son, Chris, do most of the heavy lifting. Burke and Waller do a nice job of communicating Joe and Kate’s almost animalistic need to rationalize their pain and keep their consciences pristine. And Burke is especially good at showing what happens to one’s face and psyche when the dam breaks. While Estey’s performance isn’t as layered, nothing significant gets in the way of Miller’s unflinching vision.—Doug Nordfors

X-Men: The Official Game
Activision
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC

The Da Vinci Code
2K Games/The Collective
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC

games

 Entertaining movies rarely translate into entertaining videogames, but that never seems to stop marketers from working the tie-in route.
    Take X-Men: The Official Game, a sort of videogame prequel/tangent to the third installment of Marvel’s mutant movie trilogy. Weirdly, the game focuses on Alan Cumming’s blue-skinned, teleporting Nightcrawler, a character that (rather criminally, if you ask me) doesn’t even appear in the film.
    Nightcrawler’s is one of only three black leather bodysuits you can jump into here—Iceman and Wolverine being the other two. Not coincidentally, these are the three characters whose corresponding actors provided voice work for the game. The basic storyline has you traveling back to Alkali Lake to recover parts of Cerebro (the mind-control machine that was destroyed in X-Men 2). Along the way, you’ll encounter and fight alongside other X-stalwarts like Storm and Colossus, but not very extensively—severely limited character options definitely pegs this as a rush job.
    X-Men: The Official Game looks and plays an awful lot like last year’s Fantastic Four (another based-loosely-on-the-movie tie-in that largely fell flat), despite efforts to shoehorn interesting characters from the Marvel universe into the storyline. The game’s healing mechanic feels especially cheap—I mean, Wolvie’s all about the mutant healing factor, but since when did ‘Crawler and Iceman, two of the X-Men’s least physically durable mutants, gain the power to regenerate health?
    Speaking of regenerate health, how’s this for a concept? A videogame from a movie about a book that questions whether Jesus Christ really pulled off that whole ressurection thing. Man, talk about high concept! Anyway, setting aside the overexposure issues surrounding Dan Brown’s, er, celebrated work of fiction, the videogame version of The Da Vinci Code will probably prove an entertaining adjunct to the legions of Code fanatics, most of whom will relish the chance to directly involve themselves in the deepest mystery since Scooby and the gang broke up that evil counterfeit ring. I just hope that these DaVinciacs’ anagram-solving, item-collection and cryptology skills are appropriately burnished, or they’ll be staring at the ornately designed puzzle screens until Mary Magdalene reappears in all of her glory.
    While Tom Hanks’ embarrassing mullet is blissfully absent here, his voicework is desperately missed. The Hanks stand-in delivers symbologist Robert Langford’s lines with a level of energy that’s barely above that of Sauniere’s elaborately staged corpse. It’s hard not to chortle when Langford overhears a panicked phone message in the Louvre and deadpans, “That woman is in trouble.” Gee, ya think?
    But the real code-breaker here is the game’s struggle system. It’s sorta surreal to see Audrey Tautou’s cryptographer laying the beatdown on security guards with a crowbar and combat moves worthy of Tekken 5, but hey, anything for the sake of variety and increased audience share. (Like Dan Brown needs it.)—Aaron Conklin