Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
Change isn’t easy and if the emotions surrounding it aren’t dealt with well, it can cause things to explode – relationships, work, the battlements of Bargfeld….
Okay, that last one isn’t an actual thing, but it very well could be in Masters of the Dark Realm, a DnD-type role-playing game which is the Macguffin for Thomas A Misuraca’s new play produced by Force of Nature Productions at the Actors’ Workout Theater. A group of best-friends-for-a-decade have been playing this game their whole time together and it is on an otherwise typical game night at couple Nicole (Rachel Christianson) and Joel’s (Noah Kaplan) house that stoner Brett (Brett Gustafson), high-strung Frank (Kerry Kazmierowicstrimm) and gloomy Judy (Daisy Donohue) are told that a new member will be joining their group – Nicole and Joel’s first child! Reactions vary from Frank unable to deal with the change that will happen in their game nights to Judy’s eyeball-rolls at babies and Brett’s gleeful delight. With the child comes more change – their game room will now be the baby’s room and it’s time to stop playing their game.
Or is it? Joel and Nicole realize that their three thirty-something friends have no lives outside of this game and so decide to make it their NEW GAME to help them. Joel again becomes the “Dungeon Master” only for real life. But pretty quickly, this bleeds into ignoring new responsibilities and resisting change. Pressure builds in the married couple’s household and their “real” world starts to fall apart.
There are some very fun and well-explored themes in Masters of the Dark Realm, but the show itself has just enough weaknesses in its fabric to make the whole thing feel stretched. Structurally, there are some story clichés used for dramatic effect, and the further along things get into the story, the characters become more caricature rather than more fleshed out – whether this is a story, acting, or direction (Corey Chappell) issue is often unclear. Some of the clear and much-appreciated character arcs from the first act become a bit thin by the finale and while the cast, in general, does a fine job, not everyone is able to handle the heavy emotional work that is needed by story’s end.
However, the dialogue and attention to detail in both script and direction yield some very fun moments – we know exactly who lives in this house based on the 80’s fantasy posters on the wall and I could be putting my own experience on it, but there seems to be a pretty great Homestar Runner wing-a-ling dragon homage in a game character’s name. There is something in Masters of the Dark Realm, but a lot of it still seems to be shrouded in darkness.