The term “immersive theater” has been thrown around so much in recent years that it has lost much of its meaning and purpose as a storytelling device. Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is an example of doing it right, letting the audience explore the story as they please and have different experiences on each visit. Mamma Mia! The Party is tourist-friendly, and it’s more of an excuse for audiences to drink and dance to ABBA songs. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Even the newest Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, which is already unconventional enough, is serving corn bread and chili at intermission.
Just as audiences are starting to get immersive theater fatigue, writer Matt Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker (Kapow-i GoGo, Puffs) come along with a premise that is insanely ambitious, technically challenging to say the least, and gobsmackingly brilliant. Their new play The Magnificent Revengers, which is currently playtesting at the People’s Improv Theater, is a choose-your-own-adventure revenge Western. Using their phones, the audience votes on a wide range of decisions, including whether to kill or spare an enemy, buy a boat, and which of your companions will get a pretty flower. Some of these decisions may seem minor, but there are always consequences down the road.
Don’t Feed the Indians, which opened November 3 at La MaMa’s Downstairs Theatre, is an examination of Native American character tropes and stereotypes through a series of vignettes. Some of the vignettes are comedic, taking on Pocahontas with a Keeping Up With the Kardashians-style reality show and recreating Native American carnival shows. Other segments veer into harsher realities, like a character recounting an academic accomplishment from his school days and the vicious sexual assault that followed.
Jamie Aderski draws from her own experiences in pregnancy and motherhood with her one-woman show Cry Baby, now playing at the PIT thru November 10. She brings a raw (and hilarious) honesty to the subject of parenthood and shatters myths of childbirth, all while enjoying a bottle of wine on-stage. This week, she sat down with Ludus NYC to talk about her creative routine, the lies hidden in diaper commercials, and why Christopher Guest is her writing inspiration.
Comedy writing team Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed’s new show Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark opens its run at HERE tonight at 7:00 PM. I was a huge fan of last year’s Room 4, which also featured Unpacking star Temesgen Tocruray, and I couldn’t wait to see what was next from this hilarious and insightful writing team. Before opening night, I sat down with Marina and Nicco to discuss the show’s novel lighting design, developing an on-stage romance, and what scares them off-stage in the real world.
Soot and Spit, playing at the New Ohio Theatre through June 17, is a celebration of artist James Castle. He was born deaf and autistic, and in his lifetime, he developed a distinctive artistic style using found objects, drawing tools he created, and a mix of soot and spit.
Piehole’s Ski End, now playing at the New Ohio Theatre, has big ambitions. According to a note published in the program, the show is meant to explore “economic and environmental dread” and provide a “thoughtful alternative to the noise” of the current political climate. Lofty goals and admirable ones in this time, but are they successful?
Just before Christmas, I saw a poignant show (with an extraordinarily long name) that deconstructs Thornton Wilder’s classic play Our Town in a modern-day high school. On the night before it is scheduled to be torn down, generations of students – both current and former – converge on Ridgefield High School’s gymnatorium, and playwright Augie Praley as the story’s narrator reflects on the many lives that were changed in that multi-purpose space and recollects young love, heartbreaking loss, and frequent productions of Our Town.