Emma Paquette, a student at McLean High School , reviews “The Killing Game” performed by The New School of Northern Virginia as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

It is a typical day in an ordinary town; quiet, idyllic. The sun beats down peacefully upon those gathered in the streets. A proud father coos to his brand new twins, friends giggle and gossip more loudly than they should, and others gabber away on their cell phones. Yet this moment of tranquility shall soon be shattered. The black, circling scourge of Death has begun to close in upon them, its cold eyes devoid of compassion or mercy. Within the panic of a single minute, all those assembled will be dead. And thus begins The New School of Northern Virginia’s thoughtful production of The Killing Game.

Eugène Ionesco, one of the foremost authors in the Theatre of the Absurd, wrote The Killing Game in 1974, part of his later career.  The play depicts the story of an unnamed town that has suddenly been afflicted by a deadly plague that kills thousands of people in a day. Scenes from throughout the city are shown: the hilarious, the terrifying, and the heart-wrenching alike. The Killing Game seeks to mock how easily fear can cause human emotions to be manipulated, basic freedoms to be compromised and true communication to be destroyed. The entirety of the cast should be commended for their earnest tackling of such heavy issues, as well as their believable portrayals of a multitude of different characters over the course of the show.

Jonathan Halverson stood out among the cast due to his strong grasp of the absurdist style. He effortlessly dominated the stage in each one of his plethora of roles, particularly as the lisping and terrified germophobe near the beginning of the play. His physical comedy was also brilliant, combining with his excellent timing to create many hysterical moments. Yet, Halverson proved himself capable of dramatic acting as well. He captured the subtle sadness of age and death with affecting understanding and honest emotion.  Ross Rubin and Kamryn Leoncavallo also distinguished themselves in their energetic and entertaining scenes. However, the show sought to highlight the group as a whole more than individual actors, and the camaraderie and cohesion between cast members was distinctly evident.

 The technical elements of the show were strongly conceived and consistently carried out. The childishly colorful set garnered much visual interest with its various shapes and diverse levels. The mostly white costumes indicated a clinical feel, while pops of bright shades tied them to the aforementioned stage design. The ever-changing hats they wore also served to give a slight idea of the actors’ current characters. In addition, the special effect PowerPoint was brilliantly and hilariously crafted, shifting slides at the exact right time to tease out the most laughs from the audience.

Death is perhaps one of the most terrifying monsters in this world. Yet, as Ionesco demonstrates in his demanding script, it must be eventually faced and, finally, accepted. With committed enthusiasm, stand-out moments, and clear passion, The New School of Northern Virginia brought an enjoyable performance of The Killing Game to the stage.