Dad’s Garage’s new play, The Wrath of Con, uses a series of related sketches to meander through the lifecycle of a fan-run convention. For those who don’t know what a fan-run convention is, think “comic book convention.” The play takes the audience from preparation and excited arrival through to the closing of the con and sad good-byes. The Wrath of Con is brilliantly written, directed, and acted. From the opening song through to the reprise at the end, it is hilarious and endearing.
Basely primarily on the authors’ experiences at Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, the play also draws on other elements of fan culture. There are frequent and specific references to anime, comic books, the convention music scene, movie and TV sci-fi, literary fantasy, and the nearly the whole cornucopia of things that geeks love. Geek is a proud term for those involved in fandom of whatever type. The play captures the microcosm that is three days completely involved with a convention. The Con is a pocket universe separate from the rest of the world where “anything can happen.”
“Wrath of the Con” gets lots of laughs out of some stereotypes, but even bigger laughs from the reality of con culture. This is geeks laughing among themselves, and celebrating their own experiences; the humor is never looking down on geek culture and mocking them. All of the characters are free to let the geek flag fly, but none of them are raising it as a target for ridicule.
I understand the Wrath of Con characters because they are friends, my family, myself. It was obvious from the tremendous laughter from the sold out crowd, that the audience felt the same.
The cast consists of six characters each representing exaggerations of typical con goers. They are all flawlessly brought to life by six amazing actors. Harriss Callahan plays “Hank,” a geek and comic fan who has been living a rather mundane life and is at the con to forget his recent breakup. Jenny Holden plays “Sheila,” who is a longtime fan of anime and fantasy and is looking for a place to find like-minded souls and let her own soul free a little. Gina Rickicki plays “Diana,” the experienced costume and cosplay expert who becomes Sheila’s mentor. Tom Rittenhouse is “Eric,” the gamer and stoner who never seems to understand what is really going on. Rueben Medina plays both “The Looker” and the hotel manager trying to get his staff through the con alive. Tying the show together is Chris Rittelmeyer as “Albert,” the con goer fully engaged with the geek-side and searching for ultimate geek toy.
One of the favorite recurring bits in the show, based on audience reaction, was Tom Rittenhouse returning to celebrity panel discussions to ask very long and specific questions about drugs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or twilight, only to find that he was in panel for Battlestar Galactica. Another well-constructed storyline involves the interaction between Hank and Sheila as they move towards each other romantically, with many funny false starts along the way.
There are a lot of ways The Wrath of Con could have gone off track, but everyone was up to the challenge and the end result is one of the most engaging nights of theater that I have ever encountered in Atlanta. The questions still lingers whether Con could get such a strong reaction outside of Atlanta? Would an audience get the humor if they had never been to a con?
The writers deserve a special callout for the brash balance of mirth, respect, and longing to return to the con. Jon Carr, Linnea Frye, Z. Gillispie, and Ed Morgan provide numerous individual that serve as the continuing story line of the play, though many of them could stand alone. Not every sketch works perfectly—but none of them falls flat.
For those familiar with Dad’s Garage, you know that attending an event there will be seeing a professionally run show. The Wrath of Con was no exception. The professionalism of the crew shined again, from lighting, to music, to the impeccable and creative sets.
Director Dan Triandiflou excels in letting the actors develop and grow the characters to create a full mosaic and bringing out the best in amazing writing. He also deserves kudos for in keeping this work on track and well-paced.
Dan Carroll reviewed this play as objectively as possible. He is deeply involved in the Atlanta Convention scene. He serves as the Media Relations Director for Dragon*Con and has been a director or consultant for many other conventions in Atlanta. He assures the editor that if the play had sucked he would have said that in his review.