Modem times: Play spoofs hacker films of the ’90s

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They can jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace!

A team of code jockeys will try to save America’s online world in a new play that spoofs the cheesy cyber-thrillers of the 1990s. “USA_HACK,” debuting at the Annoyance Theatre in Williamsburg on June 17, flashes back to the days of dial-up internet to highlight the best — and worst — aspects of computing during the internet’s early iteration, said the theater’s executive director.

“We’re both making fun of it and totally embracing it,” said Philip Markle. “The dial-up modem, and ‘you’ve got mail!’ and Microsoft’s Clippy. I came of age during the internet and I remember all these things so vividly.”

The show follows a team from the United States of America’s Headquarters for Authorizing Computerized Knowledge (or “USA_HACK”) as they defend the internet from devious foes. Just like the hackers in ’90s flicks such as “Swordfish,” “Mission Impossible,” and, of course “Hackers,” each member of the cyber-gang comes with a specific, inexplicable skill — such as automobile master or seduction virtuoso, said Markle.

“Every character has this archetype — he’s the hacker, she’s the spy,” he said.

One character, played by the show’s writer, breaks out the rollerblades to mimic the young Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller from “Hackers” — although the skater said he is not quite as stable on the wheels as that pair.

“It doesn’t make sense why I’m on rollerblades, really,” said Zachary DiLanzo. “I almost fall in each episode.”

The two-hour play features a cast of comedians, who break up the cyber-seriousness of the plot with good puns, said Markle.

“And by good, I mean they are atrociously bad,” he said.

Here is one from actor Joe Rumrill: “Y’know, I was supposed to put a joke about a parking garage right here — but I don’t have the space!”

The show originated as four serialized episodes, but was so popular that the group turned it into a full-length, two-hour play —a first for the improv theater. In its current format, the show is scheduled to run for four weeks, but the theater may renew its online subscription, said Markle.

“Right now we’re confirmed for a four-week run,” he said, “but hoping to extend for as long as we can.”

“USA_HACK” at the Annoyance Theatre [367 Bedford Ave. between S. Fifth and S. Fourth streets in Williamsburg,, (718) 569–7810]. Fridays, June 17–July 15 at 8 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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