Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fringe Festival: "Crime and Punishment"

Day: 7

Show: 25

Category: Something different

By: Live Action Set

Directed by: Noah Bremer

Location: The Soap Factory

Summary: It's something different all right - an immersive wild ride through a haunted house sort of adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment.

Highlights: After seeing this show, or rather experiencing it, my initial thought was "I don't know what just happened, but I want to do it again!" I've never experienced anything quite like it; it takes theater beyond the boundaries we're comfortable with into a completely immersive experience that engages all of the senses (well except for taste, I was asked if I drank but wasn't offered one). The sights of many little intricately detailed spaces around every corner, the sound of people whispering in your ear or shouting from behind a sea of white sheets, the touch of a hand on your arm as someone pulls you into another room, and the sickly sweet and fruity smell of fake blood. Since I'm not familiar with the source material, I didn't get much of a cohesive story, which is not necessary or perhaps even desirable in this case. I'm not certain what was going on but I do know this - I was led by the hand into a small room below the stairs, a beautiful lady in a tiara and fur held my hands and looked meaningfully into my eyes, I leaned on a window sill and watched a drunken Russian, I was asked to buy wares from a market, and I'm pretty sure I glimpsed through the sheets a man with a sharp object protruding from his forehead. And did I mention that the audience members have to wear masks? At first I was less than enthusiastic about it but soon came to realize that the masks are absolutely essential to the experience. Not only does it differentiate your fellow audience members from the actors, but it gives you something to hide behind and not worry about your reactions. I cannot even imagine the logistics of making this work, with so many things happening in so many places, in the dark! Kudos to Noah Bremer and the cast and crew for pulling it off. Crime and Punishment is a crazy brilliant theatrical experiment.

I regret waiting until the last weekend of Fringe to see this, I really wish I had the opportunity to revisit it now that I have the lay of the land (literally and figuratively). If I experienced it again, I would pick out one of the "main characters" and follow them through the duration of the experience. I had a bit of a scattered experience because I kept getting pulled in different directions, which was still wonderful, but I would love more time to put all of the odd and surprising little pieces together. Just as I was getting into it, the lights went out, and then on, and we were unceremoniously told to leave. I feel like I could have spent hours exploring, but since there are only two shows remaining tonight and they're sold out, I can only hope for a post-Fringe revival. Until then I'm sure I'll be revisiting those creepy dark shabby rooms of the Soap Factory basement in my dreams, whether I like it or not.