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Review: Woolly Mammoth’s Nether

Arty Pants
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“Did you read what the play was about?” I asked my lovely friend, Alana, as we settled down into our seats at Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

“Nope,” she replied. “We didn’t last time, either, and it was weird, but worked out fine.”

Yep. I work too much and love the theater—so I’ll take in a show at Woolly or Studio Theatre regardless of what the play is about. Last time, we saw Guards at The Tajwhich explored how we experience beauty in a narrative around two men who guard the construction of the Taj Mahal—with horrific results.

It was weird—and slightly off-putting—as most plays are at Woolly. But I never regret my hour or two in the theatre at Woolly. I always depart having witnessed high-quality acting, innovative theatre, and unique entertainment: three pillars of the experience at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. The other key component of the Woolly experience is that all plays pose a question.

Nowadays, unless it’s work, I doubt most of us explore outside-of-the-box, creative ideas, or answer questions the way we once did in creative literature. It’s good for the soul and the mind—in my humble opinion.

Arriving at The NetherI didn’t think the plays at Woolly could get any weirder. There was the play about the obesity epidemic, American overconsumption, and the brink of our civilization—when one of the characters turned into a pig, I had to pinch myself. There was the other about the religious cult in the Hobby Lobby.  There was full-frontal nudity in Oedipus El Rey, a rendition of the Greek story about daddy issues that took place in a SoCal correctional facility. There was the other instance of full-frontal nudity when the notorious RGB and all the supreme court justices dropped their robes while singing Broadway tunes.

The Nether, Woolly Mammoth Theater, Washington, DC
Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Paul Vincent O’Connor. Photo by Scott Suchman

And, somehow, they always get weirder. The Nether is a dystopian crime drama that centers around an agent prosecuting a man for creating a “virtual reality hideaway” on the internet that allows characters to rape and murder children who never grow up. Yep, just a little heavy.

The Nether, Woolly Mammoth Theater, Washington, DC
Maya Brettell, Edward Gero | Photo by Scott Suchman

Again, there are questions. Can you be held responsible for crimes committed in a fictitious realm? Can you be held responsible for the thoughts of others?

The Nether had incredible acting and staging—and despite the creepy plot line—I enjoyed the play immensely and left, as always, a little more thoughtful than when I had arrived.

The Nether is playing through May 1 at Woolly. Ticket start at $30.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.

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  1. I love Woolly. Guards at the Taj was amazing, and so was this. For such a heavy subject, it didn’t feel super heavy. Just engrossing. I probably wouldn’t have seen it if I’d read about it in advance, but I’m really glad I did.

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