Swandive Theatre’s mONSTER Explores the Secrets Behind the World Wide Web

Brill sits at a computer in a dark room

Kelsey McMahon as Brill in mONSTER. Dan Norman

When I started college in the mid-1990s, worldwide access to the Internet had been around for a little over a year. I remember the excitement as I received my university-issued laptop and scored one of those AOL floppy disks that gave me 50 hours of web access, free of charge. On any given night, my kitchen was full of fellow students spending countless hours exploring the web, mainly spending them in chat rooms. We went through a lot of Zima and ramen.

Nessa strikes an excited pose

Jamie Fields as Nessa. Dan Norman

mONSTER—written by local playwright Sam Graber, produced by Swandive Theatre, and directed by Meaghan DiSciorio—brought me right back to that moment when I was sucked into the World Wide Web. The show takes place in a college dorm in 1994, when two roommates first meet; one is excited to start the stereotypical college experience while the other is entranced by her mission behind the computer screen. The play explores the addiction, mystery, and monsters that surrounded the early days of the Internet.

I was predisposed to love mONSTER as soon I walked into the Southern Theater, intrigued by the small yet detailed set consisting of a bed, computer desk, and dresser. The walls of the dorm room are constructed from a web of cables. I appreciate the tangled mess of computer cords emitting from the back of the desk and spare keyboards on the floor underneath.

Brill and Greg

Brill and Greg are shocked. Dan Norman

The three actors in the show—Jamie Fields as Nessa, Kelsey McMahon as Brill, and Avi Aharoni as Greg—make the production emotional and believable. At times I forgot I was even watching a play. Aharoni shows great emotion in his acting; his awkwardness in being a new RA and his excitement about the Internet pulls you into his world.

I also loved being able to experience this show with my teenage daughter. It gave us a great subject to talk about afterwards while we enjoyed a mocha at a local coffee shop before heading home. She’s never really known a world without the Internet, whereas I experienced the beginning of the phenomenon firsthand when I was her age.

Brill sits alone

Dan Norman

Whether you were around for the birth of the Internet or not, this is a show that should not be missed. Note that there was a warning posted at the theater for flashes, loud noises, and triggers (violence, rape, racism) that I did not see online prior to the show; from what I could tell, this mainly referred to a brief video at the beginning of the performance.

mONSTER plays through October 7 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.

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