Home

True gamers, especially nostalgic ones, will appreciate The New Colony’s world premiere of Merge. Closing out its 2016 season, this 90-minute, fast-paced, and often funny, performance at the Den Theatre’s Upstairs Main Stage spotlights the roller-coaster history of Atari, a pioneer manufacturer of video arcade games.

 

Written by Spenser Davis and directed by Andrew Hobgood, Merge provides an inside look at the tumultuous ups and downs of the video game company from its start in the early 1970's.

 

The script is Davis’ first original full-length play. Submitted through The New Colony’s writers program, it made quite an impression on company members. “Merge was the rare instance of a story flying off the page with such ferocity that Andrew and I needed to get our ensemble in the room immediately,” said Co-Artistic Director Evan Linder. “Spenser Davis’ hilarious and insightful script will welcome onstage the largest cast The New Colony has assembled since our first season.”

 

Despite the size, Hobgood’s staging of the huge 16-member cast in such a small space was mostly effective. However, at times, when the full cast was onstage, the fast-talking and screaming could be a bit overwhelming.

 

The set design was one of the biggest stars of this production with a video arcade cabinet as the backdrop along with a bright neon color scheme.

 

The opening action starts in the late 70's around the time Atari, hugely successful with its arcade and home console video games but cash-strapped, merged with Warner Bros. Atari employees are frazzled by the corporate takeover and the impact ricochets throughout the company as key players leave. Pot smoking, Jacuzzi parties and eccentric behaviors had fueled Atari’s workplace during its rise. When they have to sell to Warner Bros. to stay afloat, along with the influx of corporate cash comes corporate structure and new requirements, including wearing socks.

 

The use of the flashback technique and flexible, moving set pieces allow the action to flow seamlessly back through time as the audience is quickly introduced to Atari co-founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Like a video game version of the odd couple, these two opposite personalities are behind one of the fastest growing companies in America.

 

Their different styles, business philosophy, especially on how to handle lawsuits from competition, and Bushnell’s hard-driving ambition, eventually force Dabney out of the company. Ironically Bushnell himself is ousted as CEO after the Warner Bros. merger, paving the way for a more straight-laced chief in Stuart Nygard.  It was this move that prompted many of the remaining programmers who had been with Atari from the beginning to jump ship and align with a competing company.

 

In one of the more fascinating, yet somewhat out-of-place scenes, a courtroom battle that feels more like an episode of “Wild ‘N Out” ensues between Warner Bros. and that rival. Dabney returns at a pivotal moment providing information that will not only have long-lasting repercussions for Warner Bros. but the video game industry as a whole.

 

Merge is creative and fun and packs a lot of history in 90 minutes. A huge and high-energy cast and creative staging keep the story moving in a compelling fashion.

 

Recommended

 

Merge is now playing at The Den Theatre’s Upstairs Main Stage through November 13, 2016. Tickets are available at www.thenewcolony.org.

Published in Theatre Reviews

Mysteriously seductive, Joffrey’s "Giselle" charms with its darkness

20 October 2017 in Dance in Review

Giselle, Adolphe Adam’s beautiful tale created for the ballet’s premiere in Paris back in 1841, has been re-imagined by the…

An Evening with Chris Thile – The Man, The Mandolin

20 October 2017 in In Concert

“That didn’t even sound like a mandolin,” I said to my companion – a mandolinist of some considerable skill –…

Review: "Hard Times" at Lookingglass Theatre

16 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

Lookingglass Theatre Company opens its 30th Anniversary Season with the return of the award-winning “Hard Times”, adapted from Charles Dickens…

BLUE MAN GROUP CELEBRATES 20th BIRTHDAY!

16 October 2017 in Theatre Reviews

With two decades in its home at Lakeview’s Briar Street Theater under its belt, Blue Man Group is still going…

Review: "Piaf: The Show!"

11 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

Darn those French and their "musical spectaculars." There are few things Americans do with more flare than the French, and…

First Folio's "The Man-Beast" a passionate tale of horror that delivers big

11 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

Set in the 18th century French countryside, First Folio Theatre vividly brings to life Joseph Zettelmaier’s “The Man-Beast”, a romantic,…

Rigoletto’s classic tale is a feast for the ears

10 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

Court jester Rigoletto prefers to hide his misery behind jokes and mockery of others. But it’s not the only thing…

Hilarious "Bewildered" will make you realize that YOU are the leading lady in your life!

10 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag rings in its fifteenth-anniversary season with real magic in this hilarious spoof of the 60's and…

Review: The Crucible at Steppenwolf Theatre

09 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

It’s the season of Arthur Miller in Chicago. It appears Miller is enjoying a renaissance right now with three of…

Older than Mythologie: Orphée et Eurydice at the Lyric Opera

08 October 2017 in Theatre Reviews

The first time I went to the opera was in elementary school to see La Triviata. It was a school…

Foxfinder is vaguely relevant

03 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

The most depressing thing about the Foxfinder’s premise of “near future” is that it looks remarkably like somewhat distant past,…

Suzanne Puckett; Poetry at its finest

03 October 2017 in BCS Spotlight

You tore him down! Discredited his name ~ Made him lie, cry and beg ~ Hold his head in shame …

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles

  • Mysteriously seductive, Joffrey’s "Giselle" charms with its darkness
    Written by
    Giselle, Adolphe Adam’s beautiful tale created for the ballet’s premiere in Paris back in 1841, has been re-imagined by the Ballet Master and Stager Lola de Avila, marking the opening of Joffrey Ballet’s 2017-2018 Season. Set in the Middle Ages…
  • An Evening with Chris Thile – The Man, The Mandolin
    Written by
    “That didn’t even sound like a mandolin,” I said to my companion – a mandolinist of some considerable skill – as we left Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts after attending An Evening with Chris Thile. “That’s what…
  • Review: "Hard Times" at Lookingglass Theatre
    Written by
    Lookingglass Theatre Company opens its 30th Anniversary Season with the return of the award-winning “Hard Times”, adapted from Charles Dickens and directed by Artistic Director and Ensemble Member Heidi Stillman , in association with The Actors Gymnasuim. It was first…
  • BLUE MAN GROUP CELEBRATES 20th BIRTHDAY!
    Written by
    With two decades in its home at Lakeview’s Briar Street Theater under its belt, Blue Man Group is still going strong. The show can best be described as a bizarre, performance-arty take on STOMP, with both running about 90 minutes…

Guests Online

We have 84 guests and no members online

Buzz Chicago on Facebook Buzz Chicago on Twitter