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The Play

by Dietrich Squinkifer (Squinky) profile

Slice of life

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Number of Ratings: 52
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- Ry (Philippines), September 29, 2019


You're a theatrical director at the end of his rope who just has to get through one more dress rehearsal, but there are a few problems: the leading lady has been struck down by an allergy to face paint; her replacement is a local actress who has her own ideas about the quality of the play's writing; the leading man is an accident-prone stand-up comedian; and the veteran actor who plays the antagonist is a melodramatic, misogynistic brute. What could possibly go wrong?

The Play is a fantastic choose-your-own-adventure comprised mainly of just one scene, and is therefore not that long, but you'll be drawn back to try different outcomes again and again and there is a lot of variety there. My first playthrough consisted of going with my gut instinct, and I think that's the best way to approach things in the beginning. Like the actors in the play that he directs, Ainsley M. Warrington follows the spirit rather than the letter of the player's instructions to him, and as a result the outcomes can be a little different to what you would expect. This just adds to the fun and the variety, and is certainly what drove me to try everything.

The issues that it deals with are certainly serious ones, and sometimes the contrast between that and the humorous pratfalls, slapstick and witty repartee can be a little jarring, but I think that makes it all the more effective. Five wobbly couches.

- grimperfect, March 23, 2019

- GalacticToast (Earth), November 14, 2018

- dgtziea, May 9, 2018

- Guenni (At home), January 11, 2018

- airylef, December 29, 2017

- CMG (NYC), August 1, 2017

- Wanderlust, July 31, 2017

- gilhova, July 30, 2017

- Cory Roush (Ohio), July 11, 2017

- Indigo9182, June 16, 2017

- Laney Berry, May 16, 2017

- Lanternpaw, March 10, 2016

- E. W. B., February 23, 2016

- Oreolek (Kemerovo, Russia), February 12, 2016

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Highly interactive Undum game about a play and sexism, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is CYOA at it's best: incredible writing powered by a long sequence of choices whose effects multiply so rapidly that lawnmowering (repeatedly trying every option) becomes or seems difficult.

This game presents two stories; the first is a play that is being rehearsed, while the second is the mental dialog of the director. There are three actors and a stage manager you work with, and you keep track of their moods.

I avoided this game for some time because it seemed really long and complicated, but each playthrough has just the right amount of choice (about 8-12 big options). Your choices are usually to help the play or help the performers, but it's more nuanced than that.

All of the paths include discussion of sexism. Several of the paths feature it very prominently, and develop a big backstory for the protagonist.

I loved this game. Amomg the best of CYOA, and of IF in general.

- namekuseijin (anywhere but home), December 27, 2015

- gaite, December 21, 2015

- Trobairitz (USA), October 28, 2015

- leanbh, August 7, 2015

- hoopla, July 20, 2015

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A rich game about the difficulty of group dynamics, June 21, 2015
'The Play' is set during a dress rehearsal of a play, the last one before the first performance; as the director, it is your responsibility to manage everyone and make sure that last rehearsal goes... somewhat well. This in itself is a very interesting setting and situation, where you have a linear path that is more or less followed with each playthrough, but with lots of variations, as resolving some situations might create different problems, and the emotional state of each character (tracked helpfully on the top right corner of the screen) changes.

The fact that you need to manage the emotions of four different characters, and that some decisions may make some happy but others will feel worse, create somewhat of an optimization problem, with multiple strategies possible: I kept going back and playing around different things, like "ok, this time let's try to keep that guy somewhat happy" or "i'm going to try to make this person so enraged they quit", when my first playthrough was less game-y and more "i'll stick to what i think is right". The game itself is very rich, and the state in which the characters are is genuinely important: depending on their mood, they might interject with new lines, or not say anything (and thus some choices are never offered), etc. This gives the impression of a lot of content to explore; furthermore, since everything is justified so nicely, it always feels coherent and polished, which is extremely enjoyable. I also loved that the final bit is a review of your play, with lots of variations and summing up and reflecting very well the choices you made and how everyone feels.

The game deals somewhat prominently with themes of female empowerment and sexual harassment, but not too heavy-handedly, as it is always focused on the present actions (the play, the relationship between actors). The pressure of having to finish the play further complicates the matter, as dealing with such issues also implies making some people happy and some unhappy, which is a practical consideration you will want to take into account as well; it makes the judgement calls having real consequences, which is more interesting than just applying absolute considerations or your own values. But I also liked that there were other situations influencing the state of things: tensions between director and actor, between old actors and young actors, between good and less experienced actors, etc. The only thing I felt was missing was in the character of the stage manager, who doesn't really get emotionally involved (at least, she didn't in my playthroughs), when there could have been more drama from the opposition with the actors (and the director) here too.

One of the things I didn't really like was that you could make choices as the director, but you didn't have control over the tone or content of your own line; as a result, I felt that sometimes Ainsley's lines were a bit too sharp or passive-aggressive given what I was expecting to achieve with this line, e.g. trying to move forward but ending up making a mean comment. But then again, if my own experience in theatre taught me anything, it's that the director is always tempted to lose their cool and fire back with a sharp tongue when actors are not being 100% cooperative (or even when they are); after all, the director is stressed too, and sometimes an artistic ego that clashes with the actor's. I don't know if the game would have been improved or needlessly complexified by the addition of a state of mind for the director as well (maybe it would lock you more in choices or in downward spirals, thus making it more frustrating for the player), but that could be interesting.

To sum up, 'The Play' is a very good 15-minute game, with lots to see and to play with; the setting feels fresh, yet coherent and realistic, and attempting to fulfill all the goals is fun, while giving food for thought about the complexity of relationships and group dynamics (and putting on plays!).

- cabalia (Ohio), March 6, 2015

- Deka, February 18, 2015

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