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POINT OF VIEW: Looking Forward

The Nether

We have a great local theater here called the Capital Stage that often puts on speculative fiction plays. Their 2018 season, in fact, is called “Future Tense.”

We just went to see the latest, a dark play called “The Nether,” by Jennifer Haley. The nether is sort of a bleak futuristic version of the dark web plus the internet, a virtual playground where more and more folks are spending the majority of their lives, or even becoming “shades” – people who are hooked up to life support in the real world so they can spend all of their time in the virtual one.

The play presents a dilemma. f someone has sex with a child (“played” by an adult) in a virtual world, is it a crime? Does it encourage similar crimes in the real world?

The play was fascinating to me on a number of levels.

One, that the nether has evolved to have its own laws and law enforcement – about half of the play takes place in the real world, as an officer interviews the man who runs the “realm” where most of the events take place. Will the internet – the nether – become essentially its own country, with its own laws?

Two, the whole conundrum provided by the play’s central question. How real is something that happens in a virtual world? What kind of real world implications can it have?

Three, what is the nature of love? I won’t spoil the ending, but it turns out almost no one is who they seem to be, and yet there is a strange (and sometimes twisted) love between them. Can love be real when it’s based on a world and on people who are not? Would we give up everything we are to experience it?

It’s great to see plays really starting to confront this kind of question, especially as we rush into a future that most of us (and our laws and regulations) seem completely unprepared for.

Have you seen any plays that really made you think about the future, about what’s coming? Tell me about them.

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