A(partment 8)

immersive theatre · abc project · Ages 21+ · United States of America

includes nudity
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June 16, 2016 certified reviewer

What I liked

Someone here wrote that you cannot describe A(partment 8) as “good” or “bad” and I completely agree. It’s such an individual experience, and each person will have his/her own journey and, therefore, personal critique.

There is one actor and one audience member for each performance. How you respond during the 10 minute piece is how you will review it.

First off, I didn’t feel scared or unnerved for a second when I arrived. I knew I wasn’t going to be murdered in A(partment 8). (Obvi—-where would all these Fringe reviews come from?). I drank the tiny cup of hot tea (not a spoiler as it’s mentioned in promo materials) and did not think I was being dosed (it actually tasted good—a little medicinal, but calming).

I am a big fan of immersive/interactive theater (whatever you want to call it). I’ve seen a LOT from those early attempts 25 years ago, like the cheesy “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” to the sublime, recent “Sleep No More”, so I was ready to go all in.

For me, the purpose of this kind of theater is to be fully immersed in the environment, the actors, the drama. And even to participate at times, and to always NOT to feel as if I’m part of a “performance” per se, but am living an ad hoc experience. An experience only to be had at that moment. To be “all in”. I always felt I was “watching a performance” and not really part of it, though inrrallybtried to go with it.

At the outset, I was given 4 lines to repeat and I took these to heart, memorizing them, and trying to engage the actress by answering the questions she posed, often using these carefully chosen lines in my answers. She engaged with me a few times, on a few questions, and I felt/hoped we might be starting an actual conversation (within the context of the scenario) but she always returned to what I felt was a script.

I guess I was hoping the experience might be a bit more improvised but that might have been too much to ask of one actor dealing with dozens of participants per night. When I kept responding to her questions and accusations (using those 4 lines as prompts) and opening myself up to being “in someone else’s skin” and wasn’t engaged, it all felt kind of false to me. I kept thinking “I’m doing this because this is a ‘performance’ and I’m supposed to….” Perhaps it was different for others, but I did not feel that total emotional immersion others felt…..at the time.

However, comma, toward that she did ask me a question that deeply moved me and when I left (after sitting in the room for another 5 minutes after it was “over” and taking in the experience.) I couldn’t get out of the gate and tears started to well up in my eyes. Hmmmm. As I walked down the street, I started to gently weep…so perhaps, the performance did for me what it was supposed to do. Just took a little while longer.

What I didn't like

It was too short. It takes a good 5 minutes to settle in. Even in “real life” you kind of need an adjustment period in a new environment… taking everything in, relaxing, etc. By the time I began to feel I might be “in the moment” it was over. But maybe this was the creator’s point.

Also, my glasses were broken and I got stage blood on a fav shirt that I can’t seem to get out. I am not complaining but it became more “hands on” at the end. (These last two sentences should really pique your interest!!)

My overall impression

A very Fringey show and immersive theater is the future. But A(partment)8 was too short to be a fully conceived immersive/interactive performance piece. At 10 minutes long, it’s great to squeeze in between longer shows; it’s inventive and thought-provoking and maybe the start of something bigger. During my 10 minutes in A(partment 8) I always felt I was watching a performance, not “in someone else’s skin” so I was never able to completely, emotionally engage. Though to my surprise I was moved to tears later on. Wow.


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