Morality Under a Microscope

By Alex Drinnen

If all consequences were stripped away, would any behavior still be considered ‘immoral’?

This year’s Stage III lineup features three plays that all—in some way—take on this challenging and complex question. From the ethics of technology to the ethics of the courtroom to the ethics of personal responsibility in relationships, this year’s lineup certainly packs a moral punch. “The plays all challenge assumptions,” said Jason Cannon, who will direct the season’s first two productions. “They insist on asking uncomfortable questions.”

Kicking off our 2020 Stage III season is Jennifer Haley’s dark odyssey, The Nether, winner of the 2012 Susan Blackburn Prize. In the near future, the Internet will evolve into “The Nether,” a virtual reality wonderland with total sensory immersion…and no rules. But when a young detective uncovers a disturbing brand of entertainment within The Nether, she launches an investigation into the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Alternating from the real world to the world of virtual “reality,” audiences will be taken on a thrilling journey, warning of an all-too real future. Called “Gasp worthy” by The New York Times and an “Impressive achievement” by The Huffington Post, The Nether is a humanizing look into the real life conditioning and the consequences of virtual “play.”

Next up, morals run amok in Jeffrey Sweet’s Kunstler, our second show of the 2020 Stage III season. Based on the real-life radical attorney and civil rights activist of the same name, Kunstler explores what the terms “conviction” and “objection” really mean in today’s society.

Set in a law school lecture hall in 1995, tensions flare between a brilliant young law student and esteemed lawyer William Kunstler as they discuss criminality, race, and professionalism. How do personal morals impact professionalism when your own conscience is on trial? Hailed as “eye-opening” and “skillful” by The New York Times, Kunstler is a fascinating deep-dive into the words of a real-life polarizing figure and his unconventional pursuit of justice.

When good intentions lead to negative consequences, how do we respond? At what point are we responsible for our own actions—and when are we not? Paralyzed by Etan Frankel rounds out the 2020 Stage III season.

A touching play of connection and human intention, Paralyzed tells the story of two characters: Leigh, a social justice advocate, and Lee, an athlete racked with guilt. When Leigh finds a mysterious note in the bathroom of a Georgia motel, the discovery sets both of their lives on unexpected paths that go anywhere but according to plan. Audiences will tackle themes of acceptance, retribution, and whether atonement is even possible in this World Premiere.

From the dark depths of a frighteningly real Internet hideaway, to a college campus lecture hall steeped in controversy and privilege, to the dingy room of a Georgia motel where the sins of the past ripple into the future, audiences can expect a rousing lineup.

The 2020 Stage III season is one that will challenge, excite, and provoke deep questions about what it means to be human on all levels, and how human connection, both positive and negative, is the most vital building block of our world.

FST’s Stage III Season begins in the Bowne Lab Theatre on January 15 with The Nether. For tickets and more information, click here.