Being a nerd is so hot right now. We’re not talking about Silicon Valley “computers are cool” nerddom, but the hard-core high-fantasy, costume-wearing Dungeons & Dragons-style nerddom, which was until recently confined to the basement of pop culture.
Hit shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things have capitalized on nostalgia for ’80s-style adventures. Board games are enjoying a resurgence (Meepleville Board Game Cafe just won a Las Vegas Weekly Best of Las Vegas award). And an animated fantasy by the The Simpsons creator Matt Groening will soon debut on Netflix. Titled Disenchantment, it was the buzz of San Diego Comic Con, itself another example of unrepentant geekery gone mainstream.
Las Vegas will not be outdone. This week, Cockroach Theatre will premiere a “live board-game show” called Quest World. Part comedy improv, part choose-your-own-adventure and part full-on fantasy world building, Quest World invites viewers to “Be the Hero, Fight the Monster & Win the Glory!”
The show is a collaboration between Las Vegans Voki Kalfayan and Anais Thomassian, who created and portrayed the original Gazillionaire and Penny from Absinthe. They’re joined by comedy duo and Gong Show Season 1 winners Married With Bananas (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann of Daredevil Chicken).
“We all play a lot of board games together, and we wanted to do something very different,” says Kalfayan, who also found inspiration in such ’80s fantasy movies as Legend, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Time Bandits. “We’re taking the fun of playing games, bringing that onstage and adding our comedy to it as well.”
Similar to a traditional board game, a giant 20-sided die will determine the course of the evening’s events, making every show different. “We love luck—good or bad,” Thomassian says. “Dice can determine if the hero lives or dies.” The hero in question will be chosen from the audience, so nobody is safe.
But dice won’t be the only determining factor. The “Quest Master” will guide the show, assisted by a crew of character-swapping henchmen. And like on any good quest, the hero might acquire tools and spells along the way that could either help or hurt. “There might be a bone dragon appearing,” Kalfayan says. “There may be a night hag … I think that’s politically correct.”
“They don’t go by witches anymore,” Thomassian adds.
“Every time you say witch you have to give JK Rowling $3,” Kalfayan says.
Kalfayan and Thomassian made their name on the Strip for a did-they-say-that type of bawdy humor. But Quest World presents a new challenge: It’s kid friendly. “We’re saying ages 7 and up, because there could be some scary parts to it,” Thomassian says. “But if you’re kid is tough, bring them. If your kid is this whiny little thing, take them to Springs Preserve; we don’t want you here.”
Quest World July 27, 5 p.m.; July 28-29, 2 p.m.; $15. Art Square Theatre, 725-222-9661.