by Pravin Wilkins

Dark Play, by Carlos Murillo, tells the story of Nick, a friendless teenager who—in his isolation—turns to online chatrooms. What begins as a prank against Adam, another teenage boy whose online profile states that he “wants to fall in love,” morphs into a dangerous quest for acceptance through deception and manipulation. I had the opportunity to sit down with Director Adil Mansoor to parse through his team’s production of this piece.

What drew you to this play?

I immediately knew Nick. I knew what it was to hate yourself so much you can’t imagine anybody loves anybody. I knew that version of lonely. Obviously Nick is queer, but I also could feel in my bones that I understood him in a different way. Then, when I found that the play is based on a real story about a Pakistani kid in London I was like… I knew it.

What do you see the role of race being in the story of the real-life kid versus the role of race in this production?

In the actual story, race is one way I understand isolation and traumatic responses to everyday experiences like sitting in a classroom and being ignored or kids laughing at you when you say something—these experiences are magnified when there are layers of identity sitting on top of you. Why does he get so angry so fast? A lot of that connects to minoritized stories.

What I loved about the way race worked in our production was what it did to Harry, Saran, and Jaron. If we’re thinking about families genetically, these three could be a family. So the dynamic of that trio really worked for me onstage and helped me understand where these characters are learning what they’re learning.

The play touches on how toxic masculinity plays out in a world with Internet: are there any events/elements of the world today that connect to this?

We talked a lot about the stakes of the internet; 2003 was a long time ago. Social media was still in an infantile state. But now, in a world with Twitter, Facebook, etc… the end of the world is one tweet away. There is a reality that Trump could tweet us into a nuclear war. The consequences are not small. Obviously, they were not small for Nick either, but they were personal; all of a sudden, now, the consequences are global and political. So that’s definitely something that has changed in 15 years.