Theatre is a medium that greatly prizes economy. A short play that tells a simple story with a small cast is considered a gem by many artists and critics. This is undoubtedly a logical reaction to excess and bloat of long, overcrowded plays that lose their audience’s attention. But sometimes that reaction is, well, reactionary. Ed Krystosek’s No Stopping No Warping No Dying is a charming, engaging and substantive one act that left me wanting more but not in a good way.
The play, produced by 1Up and The Artistic Home, follows two male protagonists, Player 1 (Michael Carey) and Player 2 (Kevin D’Ambrosio) from childhood to middle age, with constant playing of Super Mario Brothers as the central hook. We meet the two boys as preadolescents, follow them to college where they become roommates, and many years later when they reunite because of personal tragedy, all in 55 minutes.
Krystosek crafts a lot of great jokes about video games, theology, feminism, fantasy literature, old school hip hop and life and death. But it all goes a bit too fast, perhaps intentionally, trying to mimic the fast pace of early Nintendo. There are a lot of offstage characters and events that have the unfortunate virtue of sounding like they’d be really interesting to see instead of hear about. It falls in line with the contemporary writing ethos that you must strip away excess to get to an emotional core. But sometimes this robs the core of vital context.
Carey and D’Ambrosio also fail to quite rise to the material, fully realizing neither the fast paced wit nor the thoughtful poignancy.
The production design is amusing, with a couch shaped like a Nintendo controller, and familiar era spanning songs rendered as electronic video game tunes.
As it is, No Stopping is a pretty good one-act but I couldn’t help imagining a better, longer play in which the central relationship was all the more absorbing because it inhabited a fully realized world.