Review: ‘In Love and Warcraft’ — A Bay Area Premiere by Custom Made (****1/2)

(Charles Kruger)
Rating: ****1/2

Ed Berkeley and Monica Ho are charming and delightful in the Madhuri Shekar's sweet and gentle romantic comedy, "In Love and Warcraft" set in the gamer subculture.
Ed Berkeley and Monica Ho are charming and delightful in Madhuri Shekar’s sweet and gentle romantic comedy, “In Love and Warcraft” set in the gamer subculture.

 

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Madhuri Shekar is an up-and-coming LA-based playwright whose work has received enthusiastic notices. CustomMade Theatre has made an excellent choice in choosing to present the bay area premiere of her charming, twisty, romantic comedy, “In Love and Warcraft.”

Nerdy but attractive Evie (the delightful Monica Ho) is not only a virgin, but a gamer, spending most of her time online in the virtual world of “Warcraft.” She has a virtual boyfriend, with whom she is virtually monogamous, but avoids intimacy in the real world where she identifies herself as “asexual.”

It turns out that Evie makes extra money writing love letters, tweets, and Facebook posts for love lorn undergraduates who are happy to pay her a fee to mend their broken relationships. She boasts that she can turn around any breakup.

Evie is doing fine until she meets a new client, the handsome, gentle, all around good-guy Raul. When Raul asks her on a date in the real world she is astounded and excited and terrified but she says yes. Soon, she and Raul are an item — but she lays down a “no sex” rule.

Evie’s roommate Kitty (an exceptionally funny performance by Laura Espino) is her polar opposite, an unapologetic sexual liberationist, who can’t imagine going without for even a day. She urges Evie to get things going with Raul before winding up alone.

As is the case with any romance, the course of smooth love runs rough, with unexpected complications including the surprising arrival of Evie’s virtual boyfriend in the real world (a finely tuned comedy performance by Drew Reitz), and more.

A highlight of the production is a screamingly funny scene set in the virtual world of “Warcraft” in which all the actors appear as avatars inside the computer game.

These 20-something characters may be caught up in virtual reality, but, as written by Madhuri Shekar, they are as real as real can be. You will fall in love with them, learn about the world of gamers, and laugh heartily all along the way.

In addition to the four leads, Amanda Farbstein and Sal Mattos offer excellent comedic support in a variety of supporting roles. Amanda Farbstein as a sympathetic gynecologist performs a memorable onstage pelvic examination that is explosively funny.

This raunchy, gentle, sweet spirited, informative, well-performed play is a winner.

“In Love and Warcraft” plays at CustomMade through December 12 at CustomMade Theatre’s new venue at 533 Sutter St. near Union Square. For further information, click here.

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“In Love and Wardraft” by Madhuri Shekar, Bay Area premiere produced by CustomMade Theatre Company. Director: James Nelson. Scenic Designer: Devin Kasper. Lighting Designer: Maxx Kurzinski. 

Cast:

Evie: Monica Ho. Kitty: Laura Espino. Raul: Ed Berkeley. Ryan Drew Reltz. Chai/Charlotte/Woman/Doctor: Amanda Farbstein. Tony/Jerry/Nathan/Man: Sal Mattos.

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