Friday, October 23, 2015

Seattle Immersive Theatre’s "Listening Glass" – keep this company on your radar!

Listening Glass (Fedora el Morro)
Listening Glass
Seattle Immersive Theatre
(at a warehouse: 2724 6th Ave S)
Through November 29, 2015

Seattle Immersive Theatre has taken immersion to a whole new level for its first two offerings. Their production, DUMP SITE, was created inside a warehouse which they filled with walls of cardboard boxes to create rooms, and where the audience was treated to a mystery unfolding in front of them. The actors interacted as if unobserved and related to each other the way any of us might with people we know well.

A brother and sister argued, though it took some time to allow their argument to reveal the subject area of disagreement. A stranger was introduced. The brother and sister revealed more information. The audience could walk around the set and were asked to be aware that an actor might need them to move out of the way! Masks were provided so that observers became stylized birds. It was meticulously planned.

Listening Glass, now presenting in the same warehouse, and almost totally sold out (even after adding more dates) is another meticulously produced environment. This time, it’s a small county police office, with a fingerprint room, a break room with real donuts and coffee, detective office space and an interrogation room. The glass the audiences listen to is the two-way mirror of the interrogation room, where the audience is invited to hear a suspect being grilled by a detective.
Each of the (maximum 17) audience participants are presumed to be part of a group desiring to volunteer for or work at the police department. They are issued visitor badges as they are asked to sign in. Wandering around the small offices, one may read about the case at hand: a young man is found dead in a boggy area and the department is investigating his murder. A list of suspects is on the wall, with some names crossed off, presumably because they’ve been cleared.

A young man (Randall Scott Carpenter) nervously sits in the waiting room and is taken into the interrogation room. Audience members are instructed to enter a viewing space surrounding the room and don listening devices to hear what goes on in the room. The genius in this is that what happens inside of the room is not the only audio track you hear. However, in order to allow for surprise, I’ll leave out what exactly that is.

We do learn that the young man is an armed services vet with plenty of issues, struggling to maintain a normal life after deploying to Afghanistan. The detective (Gary Taylor) asks questions to elicit information, casually at first and then more insistently as the interrogation goes on. Does he end up getting a real confession or not?

The situation is described as “conceived and written by Jerome Virnich.” It is a unique script. It succeeds in drawing audiences in and making them complicit in the interrogation, even as it raises questions about police work. Directed by Beau M.K. Prichard, with scenic design by Paul Thomas, the work is a smart, engaging way of producing a unique theatrical event.

You may not get to see this particular show (tickets are going like hotcakes), but it’s wise to keep this company on your radar. They are doing something different and they’re executing it with care and precision! Their next endeavor, though, sounds completely different: a production of Romeo and Juliet! Probably not like any Shakespeare experience you’ve ever had, though…

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