I’ve written before about the unlikely bedfellows of theater and video games, and now a new production’s using the medium as a springboard for their ideas. “The Wii Plays” is a collection of mini-plays–each written by a different playwright–that all riff off the title of a game available on Nintendo’s hit console. Part of the fun of each little segment is waiting to see how the ethos of the namesake game makes its way in.
So, “Wii Tennis” starts with an awkward random meeting of ex-lovers at a coffee shop and escalates into a fervid volley of unresolved issues and recriminations, complete with toy rackets made for “Wii Sports” and tennis whites. Sega’s goofy, experimental bomb “Let’s Tap” somehow inspired a slice of quiet, suburban teen melodrama and the expletive-laden shenanigans of “Barbie as the Island Princess” infuse counterculture orneriness into Ken and Barbie. And game enthusiasts will giggle at two of the industry’s biggest mascots as a pair of egotistical rivals in “Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games.” “Why don’t you ever lose?!,” Sonic asks Mario. Why indeed? Spoken like a character whose glory days are long behind him.
A few lines from the various works show some savvy as to some of the gripes people have had with the Wii, like “Doesn’t it bother you that it’s all easy?” in the “All Star Cheer Squad” vignette. Comments to the effect that the Wii’s for old people also get made. The interpersonal tensions wrap around some heavy themes, too: divorce, ennui and self-doubt all show up even in the midst of aliens and monsters talking trash about bowling. The assembled plays get interwoven with visuals and sound effects from each of the games, bookended by interstitial musical interludes from indie rock band Super Mirage. The performers embody their multiple roles with aplomb and altogether, 12 pieces make for an enjoyable and occasionally surprising night out. “The Wii Plays” is running at the Ars Nova theater in Manhattan until February 15th.