By Patrick Hurley
Theatre in the 21st century has such a herculean task laid out in front of it. How does it stay relevant, exciting, new? How can theatre companies introduce a new generation to it? How does one go about to reinvigorate the medium? The Day Shall Declare It, an installation piece created by Wilderness and presented by Los Angeles Performance Practice, feels like it’s on the right track. It’s a submersive, site-specific wonder that doesn’t just break the fourth wall, it demolishes it completely.
For those who are unfamiliar, submersive, site-specific theatre installations are an event where the audience enters the worlds of the play, and move from room to room, or scene to scene and actually coexist with the performers in the space. This style of theatre, though not completely, has been mostly missing in the Los Angeles theatre scene, so for anyone who is mildly curious about this style, get tickets now! The show only runs until March 22.
A warehouse is transformed into several depression – era locations, all of which carry a nostalgic atmosphere that was beautifully crafted by scenic designer Nina Caussa. Moving from room to room was also greatly assisted by slick lighting, designed by Iain Court. Thanks to the talents of the three member ensemble, Nicholas Konow, Chris Polick, and Annie Saunders, who are all wonderfully expressive and physically agile enough to incorporate a piece with equal amounts of text and choreographed movements, to keep us as compelled as we are immersed.
Compiled of early Tennessee Williams and Studs Terkel writings, combined with choreography by Sophie Bortolussi, it’s a look at work, how working affects our personal relationships, and how it defines who we are. And while the idea of the piece follows a nice thematic thread, and unlike some forms of experimental theater seems highly accessible to audiences unfamiliar with this style, it does end on a note that may cause some alienation from its audience. It plays with form and it certainly deals with audience/performer relationship. It is an experimental piece that is heavily text based, and so this is where there may be a slight alienation effect, which is to say that the audience may be expecting a traditional catharsis at the end, and they just might not get what they want.
Directors Sophie Bortolussi and Annie Saunders move the piece through the space with wondrous fluidity. And the inclusion of the spectators—it almost feels wrong to call us “the audience”—was almost always cleverly utilized. The moments when a performer pulls an audience member to the side to whisper something into their ear, or when they look us right in the eye, there is a sense of ownership on our part, this performance is truly one-of-a-kind, and we are just as much a part of it as the performers are. That’s what the wonder of live theater can do!
The immersive effect, the sometimes stunning visuals, and the trio of wonderful performers makes this a transcendent, beautiful experience. Perhaps even more so to those of us who are just being introduced to this submersive style of theater. It is an exciting world to be invited into, and an even more exciting one to consider creating. There are moments of pure aesthetic ecstasy, unlike any that a traditional theater setting could offer. And so I say to everyone, but particularly to those who are not familiar with this style of theater, run, run, run to get tickets before this is gone, and introduce yourself to a truly incredible new world.
The Day Shall Declare It
Created by Wilderness
Feb 26-March 22
Los Angeles Performance Practice
Imperial Art Studios
2051 E. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
For more info: http://thisisthewilderness.com