“In Love and Warcraft,” a skilled collaboration between American Conservatory Theater and Perseverance Theatre, is a nuanced portrayal of millennial dating culture in the context of Evie’s (Cassandra Hunter) obsession with the fictional game Warcraft, inspired by the classic World of Warcraft. Evie’s fascination with the game, which often borders on obsession, prevents her from truly connecting with anyone in her life on a deeper level, even though she writes professional love letters as a career.
While she starts off the production with a boyfriend whom she has never seen in real life, Ryan (James Mercer), and a polar opposite roommate who frequently clashes with her, Kitty (Evangeline Edwards), she soon meets Raul (Hernán Angulo) and begins to see the value in physical presence in her relationships for the first time. It’s a sentiment heavily reflected in today’s highly technological age, in which people are often restricted to solely online interactions.
Unfortunately, however, Evie seems to suffer from the “I’m not like other girls” trope in her relationship with Raul. The script puts a strong emphasis on her quirks and differences at every level, with Evie refusing to acknowledge that she too is allowed to enjoy a physical relationship with someone. Meanwhile, Raul pushes her to change her behavior, such as quitting gaming altogether, before she has the chance to change for herself and decide if that’s what she needs to do.
While these elements of the relationship are somewhat concerning and should be carefully unpacked, the two actors play it extremely well; it is, after all, a realistic version of a young adult relationship. It’s easy for the audience to still reserve sympathy for the show’s main romantic pair and hope for its relationship to work even as it hits major pitfalls, especially with such an endearing performance from Hunter.
Whereas Evie is shy, unsure and indecisive, only finding her voice in writing love letters or gaming, Kitty is the perfect example of anything but. She serves as a bubbly, impulsive and outgoing counter to Evie’s constant hesitation, bursting with romantic and sexual desire. Edwards and Hunter beautifully balance each other out in their portrayals: Their interpersonal banter is excellent, but still allows for later emotional scenes to shine through as some of the show’s best moments. Their relationship — one in which they encourage each other to be their best — is the show’s real star, letting audience members feel as if they’re right there on the living room couch with the pair.
However, the show’s most intriguing facet is that it maintains the intimacy and immersion of live theater even with its virtual format. Through skilled and deliberate camera placement, carefully curated background spaces that resemble a character’s intricate gaming setup or a shared coffee shop, the sense of realism within the show’s setting is maintained, even if it doesn’t take place in a theater. Every choice is well-rehearsed and intentional, making this production a clear example of what Zoom theater should strive to look like: It utilizes the online format as a tool to only enhance the production’s intimate feel and embraces the nature of the online production, rather than shying away from the obvious. Furthermore, the chemistry between the cast members is electric, only adding to the closeness felt by the audience, almost as if they were on a Zoom call with friends.
Above all else, “In Love and Warcraft” remains a testament to the creativity of theater as an art form. In terms of subject matter, the show creatively yet eloquently uses a video game as a vehicle to portray complex issues of love and sexuality. The actors and creative team exude creativity as well in simply putting on the production, seamlessly adapting to the conditions of virtual theater in the time of a pandemic. Ultimately, “In Love and Warcraft” is all the more proof of the necessity of theater when in-person shows are not possible, because despite what Evie may learn, audiences and actors can still thrive even through a computer screen.