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Say WOW to Love in Carnegie’s “In Love and Warcraft”

Review by Jack Crumley of In Love and Warcraft: Carnegie Theatre

It’s November and that means that Cuffing Season is upon us, and theatre-goers in Covington have a romantic option for the next few weeks with the Carnegie’s production of In Love and Warcraft. I should explain: Cuffing Season is when single people couple up for the chillier months of the year. It’s a combination of the pressure to be in a relationship during the holidays and also not be alone when the weather turns gloomy and cold. Fittingly, the Carnegie is offering a story of awkward love in the digital age.

In Love and Warcraft is a 2014 play written by Madhuri Shekar, earning her an Alliance/Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award. It tells the story of Evie Malone, a 20-something college student with two main activities: playing the massively popular, massive multiplayer online role playing game, World of Warcraft, and also taking gigs where she helps couples get back together. She writes letters, sends text messages, crafts Facebook posts (whatever is best for the client) as the offending party to apologize, say something deep and romantic, and keep the relationship going. The irony with this laptop-toting Cyrano de Bergerac is that she keeps her online boyfriend at arm’s length, she’s never had sex, and she’s pretty freaked out at the prospect of it, actually. Evie thrives in her online guild going on quests and killing monsters, but any kind of real life relationship that goes much beyond hand-holding is a big issue. Evie’s best friend, Kitty, has no such hang-ups about physical contact and loudly complains when she goes for too many hours without hooking up with whichever guy she’s seeing at the moment. The tension of the play kicks in when Evie falls in love with one of her clients, Raul. The two are dating for several weeks over the course of the show, and they struggle with Evie’s lack of biological urges and her desire to keep her computer avatar in top fighting shape. It all leads to some drunken decisions followed by a big gesture to try to repair what’s been fractured.

In Love and Warcraft is a very cleverly written play, and the Carnegie production plays up the ridiculousness of the characters’ relationships and just dating in general. Katie Mitchell plays Evie as a young woman who commands confidence in coordinating an attack on a den of trolls, but who literally falls out of her chair when a guy starts flirting with her. She’s twitchy and nervous, and almost always uncomfortable. Katie is new to The Carnegie stage, and her energy level as Evie never falters.

I last saw Liz Carman as several characters in Motherhood Out Loud this past spring. Carman really brings it with Kitty. Over-the-top over-sexed in the best way. An excellent contrast to Katie’s Evie. I’m not sure if it was in the script, but I don’t think there’s any scene where Kitty actually has her shoes on. It’s a cool little character bit that I think communicates a lot without any dialogue.

Rhys Boatwright plays Raul, a character with a dramatic name who stays relatively chill for much of the show. He and Evie get into some arguments, but he brings a level-headedness to the show that helps balance out the higher energy of the rest of the cast.

Tony Kessen as Ryan, Evie’s barely there online boyfriend, is as frustrated as you would expect a guy who’s being dumped to be.

There are two other actors I want to recognize: Royce Louden and Kaitlin McCulloch play a handful of characters over the course of the show. Often, they’re some random couple who happen to be in the same place as the main cast, but every time they’re on stage, they might be having a more enjoyable time than anyone else. Because their characters are so incidental, they can cut loose in ways the rest of the cast can’t/doesn’t. The truly supporting characters they play really give the show a fun flavor.

The cast also works to help change the sets in between scenes, and often there are little character moments–a high five or a drunken stumble–on the nearly dark stage before the next scene formally begins. It’s a great way to keep the audience’s interest.

That set the cast helped rearrange is for the most part just different combinations of a couch, a table, some chairs, and sometimes a coffee bar. It’s very straightforward for Carnegie’s small stage, and just the different placement of the furniture easily communicated whether the scene was taking place in an apartment or a club.

The other part of the production I have to praise is the big scene near the end that takes place actually in the World of Warcraft. The stage is bathed in green light and dry ice smoke, the actors are wearing the colorful costumes of computer characters, the sound effects of their axe swings and sword stabs are spot-on, and it’s an overall outstanding climax to the story.

Because so many of the characters are amped up to such high energy levels, the only thing I wanted more of was subtlety. Having less intense, more thoughtful moments makes appreciating the big swings that much better. That being said, I feel like the tone of this production is a conscious choice between Director Maggie Perrino and the cast. They commit to it fully, and I respect that.

Even though video games play a substantial role in In Love and Warcraft, audiences should know this isn’t a show for kids. Sex and sexual dialogue are a big part of this play along with a healthy amount of casual swearing.

Whether you’re in a relationship or a guild, or maybe you’re just “cuffing up” for the next few months, In Love and Warcraft is a unique, timely love story that’s playing at the Carnegie in Covington on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons through November 18, 2018. Tickets are available here.