They really did it, and last night I witnessed it. On a frigid evening in New York City, the Ars Nova theater managed to stage a dozen short plays all named after Wi games.
Most of the "Wii Plays," as we've noted before, had little to do with video games. Wii Tennis is about a man and woman who used to date running into each other. Let's Tap involved a cardboard box — just like the game — but has nothing to do with rhythmic side-scrolling action. Tomb Raider: Anniversary involves Frankenstein.
The plays are mostly brisk dialogues, two characters chatting or arguing in scenes that range in style and tone from sitcom-simple to Saturday Night Live-silly. A favorite was Alien Monster Bowling League, which, in a twist for the production is actually about an alien monster bowling league.
The plays are worth checking out even if just for the fun of figuring out how someone can make a mini-play called All Star Cheer Squad or Bob The Builder: Festival of Fun. The scene is video-gamey. A version of the Wii's multi-windowed menu screen is projected at the back of the stage, from where each play is loaded. A live band rocks through video-game-related tunes in between plays. The audience is informed that it's time for intermission thanks to a projection of one of those Wii maybe-you-should-take-a-break warning screens.
Only the Wii could have produced this kind of thing and it stands as a perfect encapsulation of what the Wii has been.
Only the Wii could have produced this kind of thing. The Wii Plays stands as a perfect encapsulation of what the Wii has been, a theatrical summary of an entire console. A less insightful production would have presented Wii Plays that were all about motion control or Super Mario. For so many of us Wii gamers, however, that isn't what has defined the console. The defining qualities have been the Wii's proliferation of games, the smaller bursts of entertainment bundled into so-called mini-game collections, and the raft of absurdly-named games. The Wii has had its classics, but it's also left the impression of a gaming platform full of small, scrappy, efforts — a grab-bag of unpredictable amusement. Turn that into a play and you get this.
Before the actors get to a play that specifically deals with the fact that Wii games might be too easy, you'll already know you're seeing something that's based on the essential Nintendo experience. I can't promise you'll love the Wii Plays. But I can promise that the production has got the Wii DNA.
Hey, these aren't the Xbox 360 Plays. If they were, they probably would have included some 12-year-olds yelling slurs in your ear.
The Wii Plays will run From February 1-12 at Ars Nova's theatre on 511 West 54th Street, New York. You can grab your tickets here.
Pic of "Wii Tennis" by Carol Rosegg