Of Dice and Men
nytheatre.com review by Heather Olmstead
July 7, 2012
Since Of Dice and Men combines two of my passions, theatre and gaming, it would have been almost impossible for me not to like this show. But much to the production's credit, you don't have to be a gamer to enjoy this show about friendship. This is a story of six people who became friends through their swashbuckling, table top adventures playing Dungeons and Dragons, and how real life decisions affect their group dynamic more than the roll of multi-sided dice ever could.
The play opens with John Francis packing. At thirty, he has decided to finally move out of his mother's basement and take a job in San Francisco. He was going to tell his friends the big news the previous night at their regular Dungeons and Dragons game until another member of their group pre-empted him with even bigger news to share. The next day several of John Francis's gaming friends periodically arrive to discuss the previous night's events only to find out about his upcoming move. The first to arrive is his childhood friend, John Alex. Through a series of well conceived flashbacks, we learn how John Francis and John Alex got into Dungeons and Dragons and how their game was eventually joined by Jason and Tara in high school and college, respectively. In one particularly amusing segment we are introduced to the final two group members, the married couple Linda and Brandon, by meeting their D&D characters first. Some of the funniest moments occur with the introductions of the various D&D characters which turn out to be just as fully fleshed out as their human counter parts. Once we know all the players involved we are then taken to the game the previous night and the fallout from Jason's revelation.
Amy Overman skillfully leads this talented group of actors through Cameron McNary's well-crafted script. A play with this many flashbacks and moments of breaking the fourth wall could have easily gotten confusing or monotonous. Of Dice and Men does not fall into that trap, it's engaging, humorous, and quick paced.
Adam Swiderski's John Francis is the dungeon master (the person who orchestrates the D&D party's adventures) who deftly leads the audience through the adventures of this play. Justin Plowman as John Alex nails the geeky passion of a fanboy and Gyda Arber's adept depiction of Linda and her D&D character Durak the dwarf earned her quite a few laughs. Rob Brown's touching portrayal of Brandon has one of the most insightful revelations of the show about how our passions can be both pointless and essential. In true paladin style, Jason and his D&D character Kester (keenly played by Cedric Jones) stoically perform their sworn duties. Amy Beth Sherman manages to make Tara and her wizard alter-ego Alaya fun and likeable despite the whiney, put-upon attitude.
Nicole Lee Aiossa's costumes and props for the real life scenes are completely appropriate and exactly what you'd expect to see. Her costumes and props used in the gaming scenes are spectacular. Each D&D character looks like they could have stepped off the screen of an online role-playing game. The weapons from Gotham Armory definitely support this authenticity but the costumes themselves are spot-on and clearly convey each character's class; wizard, rogue, barbarian, etc.
The video elements, sound by Justin Plowman and graphics by Emily Hardin and J.L. Soto, support the storytelling in a fun way. I particularly enjoyed Emily Hardin's amusing graphics in the introduction to John Alex's rogue, Spango Garnetkiller.
Equal parts heart felt and humorous, gamers and non-gamers alike will find something to enjoy.