Life and death has never been so fun. The Paper Game is a brain-busting new show by Nu Sass Productions that tackles the struggle to survive in the face of systematic adversity with care and charm. It is smart and immediate, and is, without a doubt, one of the most polished and well-produced shows I have seen in recent memory, let alone at the Capital Fringe Festival.
The play’s biggest strengths come from its script, which is witty, precise, and amazingly layered. The titular game is the focal point of the show, a scarily not-too-absurd competition in which those in need are tasked with proving that their lives are worth saving. The premise is a well-conceived one, and it is bolstered by dialogue as sharp as a paper cut. There are shades of Beckett and Stoppard here, and those comparisons do not come lightly. The Paper Game finds truth in its premise and strength in its language, and does so with apparent ease.
That ease is what makes The Paper Game great. Its pristine quality lets it operate on levels that only become apparent in retrospect. Through its battles of wit, The Paper Game has an awful lot to say about class and privilege and the ethics of morality. But never once do any of these themes seem ill conceived or ham-fisted. They are handled with superb subtlety that allows small moments to invoke big ideas, without the audience even noticing.
That subtlety and ease are aided by fabulous designs that make the premise of the show come alive. Thanks to an inspired set design by Eric McMorris, never once does the world of the play seem inauthentic. The technical aspects of the show bring the audience into a world whose rules start to make sense. They make a new reality that is uncanny in its relationship to our own. It is elegant in its execution and enticing in its ideas.
The Paper Game
by Julia Holleman
Directed by Renana Fox
Details and tickets
Of course, the world only feels as real as those who inhabit it, and in that regard (as in all others), The Paper Game wins hands down. Every performance is absolutely spot on, and the chemistry between performers bolsters the show and brings real pathos to the show’s philosophical ideas. This is a game, after all, and what makes games interesting is the competition between (and among) teams. This idea of sport is so well defined by the actors that every line of dialogue feels like a knockout punch. Special mention should be given to Keegan Cassady, who plays Robert, a pro at the show’s sinister game, with absolute precision. His performance brings all of the reality of the show’s premise into clear, terrifying view.
My only complaint with The Paper Game is that I want more of it. The tight script ends all too soon, and the play deserves a second act, which it is very well set up for. Hopefully, though, this is not all we’ll see from The Paper Game. It’s a gripping play that is covered in a professional sheen and surely has greatness ahead of it.
The Paper Game is fast, sharp, tragic, and witty. It is a testament to the power of language and the art of theater. It lets its premise speak for itself and is simple in all of the right ways. But it also finds great complexity and moral fiber in its idea. It is nearly flawless, and it should certainly not be missed.