A dark new world

Lea Bergman, left, and Peter Parolin rehearse a scene from “The Nether” while using a rope as part of a subtext exercise during a rehearsal Tuesday evening at the Laramie Plains Civic Center.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

A new play by Relative Theatrics explores morality in a virtual world where behaviors seem to have no consequences.

“The Nether,” a 2013 play by Jennifer Haley, takes audiences into the Internet of the future, within which lies a realm where consenting adults can assume avatars and act out their darkest fantasies.

The play is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-3 and Feb. 8-10 at the Gryphon Theatre, 710 Garfield St. Tickets are $12 in advance or $16 the day of the performance, with a discount for University of Wyoming students and senior citizens.

In the style of a television crime drama, “The Nether” follows a detective through her investigation of this virtual arena.

“It’s really asking what constitutes a crime in a world of relative or virtual reality,” said Anne Mason, the founder of Relative Theatrics.

Does a virtual outlet for one’s desires provide a necessary release for behavior that would otherwise be unleashed in the real world? Or does indulging in abhorrent behavior, even without purported victims, legitimize that which should remain taboo?

“The Nether” contains adult themes and language, though Mason said there are no explicit or violent scenes. The issues explored in the play are suggested rather than depicted.

Mason said “The Nether” fits within the mission of Relative Theatrics, which is to take risks in pursuit of exploring the world around us.

“We really want to present work that can hold that microscope closely to the world that we live in and ask questions that really do spark conversation about where we as a society are headed,” she said.

Despite its challenging material, “The Nether” takes a hard look at the inevitable future of a society that’s becoming ever more dependent on technology.

“As with all other science fiction stories, even though they’re often set in the near future, more so they’re asking questions and telling a story that relates to a time that we live in currently, rather than something that could come to be,” Mason said.

Nathaniel Quinn, a freelance theater professional from Cheyenne, is directing the play. The cast includes Peter Parolin, Mason, Darin Hill, Lea Bergman and Justen Glover.

Mason, who has a professional acting background, hasn’t been on the Relative Theatrics stage since its early days. Since founding the organization, she has focused mainly on directing and developing a creative team. She said there’s enough infrastructure in place now that she can take on a different role.

“I am thrilled to be acting again after four years of a hiatus,” she said.

Mason said ticket sales have been strong enough so far that there’s a possibility of an extended run. The audience is seated on the Gryphon Theatre stage, and each performance is limited to 50 tickets.

A chatback with the actors and production team is scheduled to follow each performance. Mason said she’s looking forward to those discussions.

The play tackles heavy material, and I hope that audiences come and open their minds to the possibility of conversation moving beyond the dark content … to a conversation about creativity and the limits of our imagination, the nature of love, empathy in the digital age, and of ultimately art and theater as a form of creativity,” she said.

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