BARELY LEGAL Killebrew checks the funny pages.

BARELY LEGAL Killebrew checks the funny pages. Photograph: Anna Tucker

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Internet chatrooms should not be scary. There you are, safe at your computer, joking or maybe flirting with an invisible acquaintance. But if you’ve ever virtually bantered with a stranger, you know there’s a creepy side to the activity. Playwright Jordan Seavey evokes the illusory, isolating and weirdly disempowering aspects of Internet-only communication in 6969, a fitfully absorbing, diffuse murder mystery.

Inspired by a 2003 criminal case in England, the drama revolves around Mark (Ryan Purcell), an average 16-year-old athlete who starts chatting with John (Max Rosenak), a sweet, sensitive kid. Soon, Mark finds his IM window filling with notes from Samantha (Boo Killebrew), a Catholic schoolgirl and friend of John who develops a crush on Mark, but seems to be hiding dark secrets. Our confused, impressionable protagonist finds himself drawn into Samantha’s life, which involves a trash-talking stepbrother and a rapist-stalker who’s tracking her down. Mark’s contact with these people is strictly through the computer. Halfway through the first act, you begin to suspect that John is not as innocent as he seems; in fact, he may even be an Internet Iago.

Seavey has a crackling 90-minute cyberthriller here, but it’s buried in a two-hour-long draft. Too many dream and fantasy sequences muddle the psychodrama and dispel the Hitchcockian tension inherent in the cat-and-mouse communications between Mark and other characters. Still, the production is vigorously acted and crisply directed, making the venturesome young outfit CollaborationTown worth adding to your buddy list. — David Cote

59E59 . By Jordan Seavey. Dir. Matthew Hopkins. With ensemble cast.