“Up, Up, Down, Down” Review: No Contra Code Needed

Ben Williams and Allyson Morgan in Barton Bishop’s “Up, Up, Down, Down” presented by the New York Theatre Experiment. Directed by Erik Pearson, Photo by Leah Reddy

Televisions were placed in all the right spots, while box sets of animated sitcoms the likes of South Park and Family Guy were placed on shelves nearby, just askew enough to catch the eye. Video game and comic book posters depicting everyone from Batman to the Street Fighter gang were plastered on the walls.

They were not quite straight, but they were not quite crooked either.

Just like you used to have in your room back in the day.

In spite of being an Off-off Broadway performance, the set design in Barton Bishop’s “Up, Up, Down, Down” is so surreptitiously awesome that when you first walk into the Access Theater on the fourth floor of 380 Broadway, you feel like you’re at someone’s home and not a theatrical performance. However, as the play goes on, you see how integral the scenery is to the performance.

Eventually, the set design isn’t the only reason why you feel so comfortable.

Combining stellar performances from Allyson Morgan, Ben Williams and Amy Tribbey, with hilarious supporting roles by Carter Gill, Jonathan O’Brien and Christopher T. VanDijk, “Up, Up Down, Down,” is easily the best independent production in New York City right now.

A performance that initially appeals to the video game nerd, with a plethora of inside jokes [Morgan’s character, Joy often suffers from panic attacks and recites the Konami code of Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start, to calm herself down], is quickly transformed into a piece about life, love, trust and the human condition. Over the course of two hours, there will be plenty of laughs and possibly even some tears, depending on how mushy you are.

Because of this, it’s a play that can be enjoyed by an eclectic range of personalities, all of whom will get something different out of it.

Christopher T. VanDijk and Ben Williams in Barton Bishop’s “Up, Up, Down, Down” presented by the New York Theatre Experiment. Directed by Erik Pearson. Photo by Leah Reddy

This is mostly due to the duality Morgan provides her character. She can be an insecure, pill-popping loser who’s crush on her co-worker Ian [Williams] and mommy issues have destroyed any chance she has at happiness one second, only to be transformed into a hardcore gamer with the courage to stand up for her convictions and be bluntly honest to the people she cares about. Seeing her grow as a character is quite possibly the best reason to see this play. As a matter of fact, they’ll be often times during this performance that in spite of your differences with her, you can see your own life through her eyes.

The same thing goes for Williams, who starts the performance off as a hilarious, but narrow-minded obsessive gamer, before ultimately growing into the man Joy’s character needs to escape her perils and find the happiness they both deserve.

Though the plot is a bit wacky at times, with terrorist plots and gamecubes finding themselves in the same sentences, the dialogue and development of the action has a kind of Kevin Smith-feel to it that makes it weird, but totally believable and so quirky that you’ll hang on the breaths of every character throughout.

As a result, “Up, Up Down, Down,” manages to do more than immerse you in its world, it makes you think more about yours.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12447 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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