Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: I Am Standing in the Eye of a Hurricane

It's true. Change don't come easy. But it can. You just have to open your eyes. Taking the immersive experience to the next level, The Flea presents Take Care, an audience participatory event that blends topical themes into a mind-shattering night of truths.
Created by Todd Shalom and Niegel Smith and directed by Smith, Take Care is not your ordinary Flea production. Staged in the downstairs space, Take Care is highly experimental and highly rewarding. This is not a “choose your own adventure” experience, rather a piece where you can pick your level of participation. By simply deciding whether you'd like to be an active player or a voyeur, your experience will be dictated by your level of participation. Those wishing to participate will receive a card with instructions on when and how they will partake in the piece. And it's all based on a timer, a captivating yet subtle metaphor. Throughout the hour-long production, you will be led through a series of vignettes propelled by actor and audience alike. And by the end, you will inevitably have feelings. Sitting in a room virtually made up of strangers, you're in an extremely warm, safe, and welcoming place to emote. And there will be lots of emoting. Take Care is an experimental immersive event about climate change and race that is carefully crafted. This is a play for the fearless. This is not your typical theater piece. Those who seek refuge in the fourth wall should likely avoid Take Care. But for those eager to take a risk, and give those theatrical plants a night off, this is a play for you. It’s quite hard to discuss what precisely happens in this show. Yes, there is a set script that guides the evening, but depending on the makeup of the audience, your experience will likely change. There are key beats that are consistent, for example a threatening superstorm where you will want a poncho to avoid water, but it’s when the audience is literally given the microphone that the mood will swing. The “script” is filled with improvisational moments for the participants and what they may share could affect everything, even the timing of the night. But what’s amazing is how deep and honest people can get. You can feel the vulnerability within that stranger sitting across from you. Between sharing what you wish was in your emergency kit to the simple filling in the blank to the statement “I am…”, what the person says right before you could sway the continuing circle of revealing.
photo by Bjorn Bollinder
This will be one of those rare occurrences where the audience played a bigger "part" collectively than the actors. That being said, the Take Care company served as extraordinary guides and Caretakers. Tommy Bernardi, Maki Borden, Rachel Lin, Ashton Muniz, Derek Christopher Murphy, Rebeca Rad, Brittane Rowe, Isabella Sazak, Ryan Stinnett, and Catherine Woodard took on these unique and weird roles to form a unique ensemble. A special recognition should be paid to Brittane Rowe for her stunning rendition of Bridget Mendler's "Hurricane" with great accompaniment by Tommy Bernardi on piano and of course the Hurricangels. It was a welcome and inspirational musical break. There is something about The Bats and random musical numbers that reverberates.
Director Niegel Smith clearly had a vision as to how this event was going to be tailored. Just by peering at the “script”, you could imagine that it was like assembling a giant puzzle. Smith had a willing group of actors ready and able to pick up any moment of dead air but Smith’s trust in the one inconsistent factor, the audience, proved his confidence in his theatrical social experiment. As stated before, every performance will be a different experience and yet Smith and his team have a blueprint to keep things on the right track. Because of this unique experience, the design of Take Care is interesting. There is little uniformity that meets the eye at first glance yet everything seems to be cohesive. The actors seemed to be wearing clothing that were pulled out of their closet. There is an assortment of props isolated to several parts of the stage. But when the timer begins, there is a clear cut flow to the show. The lights and sound by Amith Chandrashaker and Miles Polaski are sharp and unified. The video design, also by Chandrashaker, is filled with images and videos that are evocative.
There are so many moving parts to Take Care that it is incredibly likely that you will miss a lot. And that may be a bad thing. But what you do take in, it’s something unique. When all is said and done, it's ok to be overwhelmed. Chances are you're not alone. And a warning to all those brave enough to fight this storm, take that poncho. Especially if you’re wearing something you like. There’s water everywhere and you’re going to get wet.