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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alchemist Theatre Brings Classic Video Games to Life

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Video games have undeniably impacted contemporary culture, and this week a new comedy pays tribute to the era that gave rise to darkened arcades all over the country. The second new show to debut in as many weeks, Vince Figueroa’s 8-Bit Warrior is more than a nostalgic look at classic video games. It’s also a 1980s-style pop comedy.

Rob Maass plays Will Davies, a young man unsure of what to do with his life. He doesn’t have a purpose outside of the arcade. Anne Graff LaDisa, part of the Milwaukee comedy troupe Broadminded, plays Davies’ love interest, Becky Walsh. Unfortunately for Walsh, she’s the only one interested in love. Davies is distracted by a bigger dream—to get the highest score ever on “Donkey Kong.” Milwaukee Comedy Festival founder Matt Kemple plays Jesse Stackhouse, a new kid in town who turns out to be pretty good at “Donkey Kong” himself. The rest of the characters read like a list from a typical 1980s teen exploitation movie.

The novelty of seeing a 1980s-style big-screen comedy performed live onstage with local actors in all of the roles isn’t the only reason this show sounds like fun. The tiny stage of the Alchemist Theatre will also feature live-action re-creations of vintage video games.

“The task of bringing the games to stage is a big undertaking,” Figueroa says. “We're all getting a crash course in puppetry.”

Jeremy Lowther, art director for 8-Bit Warrior, designed all of the game pieces. Original music and sound effects from classic coin-operated arcade games will mix with the live action.

“In a way, the process is like choreographing a musical number,” Figueroa says. “Instead of dancers, I have someone moving Mrs. Pac-Man around onstage.”

Other games getting the stage treatment include classics like “Pong” and “Space Invaders,” as well as some that became more popular on home video game platforms, like “Tetris” and “Duck Hunt.” 

8-Bit Warrior runs March 25–April 11 at the Alchemist Theatre in Bay View.

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