Michael Golamco's new drama Build at the Geffen Playhouse deals with weighty subjects in the technological age: How we cannot engage with humanity but only with simulations; how we've stripped the "fun" out of gaming and turned it into pure commerce; and how we're alone sometimes even when we're with our best of friends.
These are definitely engaging issues for a play, but Golamco fails to fully connect the dots, and director Will Frears' slow pacing makes the 90-minute drama feel even longer.
Kip (Thomas Sadoski) and Will (Peter Katona) have created one of the world's best-selling online games, making them very rich. Now, it's contractually time to launch the sequel. Will, the business end of the team, hovers over his partner, begging him to fix the necessary bugs so the company can release their new software -- but Kip refuses to leave his grandmother's house.
His wife, Allison, died recently, and the man who once drove away his wife with his obsession over tinkering on his game has now found every excuse to avoid work or other people. He does have a secret friend (Laura Heisler), however, even if she's less company than a symptom of his obsessions.
Everything is hinted at rather than made clear in Golamco's script. And although subtlety can often be rewarding, what we get here are essentially sketchy characters and holes in the scenario. Moreover, nothing is ever really resolved, so in the end, the audience assumes that it's all of no consequence.
Fortunately, Sadoski and Katona build a concrete backstory where the script fails them. They are thoroughly believable as two surrogate brothers who have functioned as a team since children and now can't seem to relate at all. What makes these two so intriguing to watch is you can feel that Katona knows Sadoski's rhythms and yet senses that those cadences are off. Anyone who's lived with or loved people suffering from depression knows the sort of frustration that Katona captures beautifully.
Sadoski, a seasoned stage actor now familiar to viewers of HBO's The Newsroom, plays Kip as a frustrating egocentric who never sees the big picture or realizes how his needs affect others around him. At times, he looks like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and seems almost as remote.
While Frears and his design team manage to create an ethereal effect around Heisler, with lighting and audio feedback that gives her an angelic presence, the actress' work suffers the most from Golamco's writing. She is a warm actress who tries to make her Allison2 matter, but the situations and the dialogue don't make her consequential enough to touch the audience's heart – a problem from which much of Build suffers.