In Mac Rogers' engrossing Viral, at the SoHo Playhouse, a woman's search for a way to end her life has surprising meaning for a quartet of strangers who live hundreds of miles away. Meredith (played with quiet intensity and a depth of emotion by Amy Lynn Stewart) does an Internet search on the phrase "painless suicide," and comes into contact with a website run by Colin (Kent Meister) with the aid of brother-sister team Geena (Rebecca Comtois) and Jarvis (Matthew Trumbell). Their online chat about Meredith's desire to die ultimately turns into in-person offers of assistance in her quest.
With a decidedly dark comic bent, Rogers' play explores not only the ways people can exercise control in their lives, but also the ways in which human existence -- in its widest sense -- has become a commodity in the Internet age. In nine scenes that alternate between the hilarious and the morbidly bleak, the work reveals not only why Colin and crew are willing to help Meredith commit suicide, but also the tenuousness of their relationships. Domineering Colin's at his wit's end with Geena, his well-meaning, but too impetuous, girlfriend. He's concerned that Geena's friendliness might cause Meredith to change her mind. Concurrently, Meredith attempts to help Geena recognize how imbalanced her relationship with Colin truly is. Once a man named Snow (Jonathan Pereira) arrives on the scene, uneasy alliances and friendships splinter.
Director Jordana Williams expertly balances the play's tones and stories, but her work cannot conceal some of the inconsistencies or loose strands in the plot. Williams has also been unable to elicit uniform performances in her company; while Stewart and Comtois impress, Trumbull and Meister are underwhelming. Nevertheless, Viral satisfies and its story lingers well after its final moments.
-- Andy Propst