There's an extraordinary, unsettling play right now at Area Stage, permeating the theater with the aura of unforgivable sin. It's Jennifer Haley's piece in which an internet, The Nether, is created. It is so all encompassing that users may live their entire lives within its boundaries. And commit almost any act without retribution.
Sims, played brilliantly by Peter Galman, is an admitted pedophile. He despises himself for hurting children but cannot resist the desire. So he builds a site, The Hideaway, populates it with the avatars of little girls and leaves the real world for the virtual. For sixteen hours a day.
The mysterious government is aware and sends Detective Morris (Samantha Dagnino) to find Sim's server, for although almost anything goes in The Nether, child abuse is still forbidden. He is questioned by Morris.
This happens in the first scene in an all steel interrogation room with the requisite table and two chairs and one way mirror in the upstage wall. With the scene change comes crashing, let's kill music and the one way mirror dissolves as if by magic into Sims' internet site, a Victorian manor in a lush garden of Eden. Sims is there. And with him is Iris, a nymph in dress and pantaloons, played by Isabel Van Natta. They are in period dress. Galman's Sims is Mephistopheles incarnate, Van Natta's Iris willing innocence. Any desire can be satisfied. It's impossible to look away.
Doyle (Gil Kaufman), a middle aged teacher visits. Often. He's escaping into The Nether. He's escaping into another body, another life. Anyone can be anyone. Freedom. But he, too, is investigated by Detective Morris. Little girls.
A young man, Thomas Woodnut, played by Daniel Capote, visits Iris's bedroom. He's a nice young man. But remember, there's no retribution in Sims' Hideaway. There's a woodsman's shiny ax, but there's also resurrection. Just do it, anything you desire. Slaughter the little girls. There are always more.
The scenes are abrupt, the interrogation room, the garden, Iris's bedroom over and over again. Always the threatening music.
Galman plays the pleasure, the guilt, the outrage of the accused Sims so well that it is hard not to sympathize. An outstanding performance.
John Rodaz directed with all the taste one can bring to a piece as imaginative, brutal, and fascinating as The Nether. No scenes of sex or violence are portrayed on stage. All is intimation, and that's shocking enough.
Jodi Dellaventura designed the set, a marvel of fantastic realty and this, with Rick Kaydas' original music, provide a staging for The Nether that is perfect. Lighting by Giancarlo Rodaz and costumes by Maria Banda-Rodaz. The scenic artist is Jorge Félix.
The Nether is playing through Jan. 31 at Area Stage, 1560 South Dixie Highway, 103, Coral Gables. 305-666-2078, www.areastagecompany.com/