Haley, Jennifer. The Nether.
Publisher: Northwestern U.P., 2015.
Premiere Kirk Douglas Theatre, L.A., 2013.
Settings: An interrogation room (IR) and The Hideaway.
Characters: Sims/Papa, businessman; Morris, female, detective; Doyle, science teacher; Iris, a shining girl; Woodnut, guest at the Hideaway.
Scene 1: IR. Morris is interrogating Sims who is under suspicion for solicitation, rape, sodomy, and murder. Sims apparently occupies two different worlds, one being the Nether. In-world he has no children and lives in a brownstone; in the Nether he has 4 children including Iris and lives in a fantastic old estate.
Scene 2: IR. Morris is pressuring Doyle to speak—threatening him with exposure & promising him bribes. When he finds out he can’t “keep Iris” if he complies, he refuses to speak.
Scene 3: IR. Morris pressures Sims to give her his server so she can delete his Nether realm—apparently his virtual world where he can indulge his pedophile obsessions without touching children in-world.
Scene 4: Hideaway foyer. Sims has a suggestive interplay with Iris but refuses to let her grow older. Woodnut arrives at the Hideaway.
Scene 5: IR. Doyle is apparently planning to put his in-world body on life-support so that he can live exclusively in the Hideaway realm in the Nether. Morris warns against such a drastic plan.
Scene 6: Iris’s bedroom. Iris introduces Woodnut to some of the protocols of Hideaway/Nether. They play jacks, and then she begins to seduce him.
Scene 7: IR. Morris quotes “our agent” to Sims. Sims claims that people must be free in their imagination, and that’s all that the Nether is—imagination. He figures out that Woodnut was the agent.
Scene 8: Iris’s bedroom. She’s teaching Woodnut to waltz. Woodnut questions how she knows how Papa feels about her. Papa enters and tells Woodnut his time is up.
Scene 9: IR. Doyle admits to Morris that he’s considering crossing over to live exclusively in the Nether.
Scene 10: A sunny spot. Papa questions Iris about her visits with Woodnut. He says he has planted a poplar in his garden, a real real one. Iris says, “I love you.”
Scene 11: IR. Morris & Sims. It comes out that Woodnut had sex with Iris, also that Iris went away and then came back crying. I think Sims figures out that Woodnut was actually Morris.
Scene 12: Hideaway foyer. Sims and Woodnut share cognac, and Woodnut reveals that his father was a shade and that he inherited his father’s log-in. Sims urges him to use the axe.
Scene 13: Iris’s bedroom. She encourages Woodnut to use the axe on her. He refuses. She refuses to tell him what Papa confided in him from the real world, but she breaks the rules and tells him that in-world she won a Distinguished Teaching Award in Theoretical Physics, the same award that Doyle told Morris about winning. Woodnut picks up the axe and asks her to approach.
Scene 14: IR, Morris & Doyle. Morris tells Doyle about acting as Woodnut and killing Doyle as Iris over and over again. She says he can cross over and stay forever in the Hideaway if he gives away a single thing about Sims. They go to log in and become . . .
Scene 15: Iris and Woodnut in Iris’s bedroom. Woodnut hides, and Iris tricks Papa into telling about his garden with the poplar. Woodnut, as Morris, returns to the IR and finds Doyle gone.
Scene 16: IR. Morris tells Sims that Doyle hanged himself. Sims gives her the location of his server. He tells about almost assaulting a neighbor girl and sublimating by creating the Hideaway. He says Morris has no idea what she is unleashing in-world by banning him from the Nether. She tells him he is free.
Epilogue: Sims and Doyle replay Scene 10 with one addition at the end: Sims says, “You cannot know how much I love you.”
A mind-bending, sci fi play about responsibility in virtual settings. Creepy.