Sunday, August 07, 2011

THEATER: Red Cloud Rising

Who is Charlotte Gaffney, and why is she trying to get me to work as an analyst for Bydder Financial? You pause for a moment, scratching your head, pouring over your e-mails, and then you remember: some time ago, you signed up for an interactive theater experience called Red Cloud Rising, which purports to be a friendlier, safer, communal version of that Michael Douglas film The Game: might this be it? So it is that you dress comfortably for your "job interview," heading down to the Financial District to meet the other potential inductees. Across a conference table from them (in my case: a reporter, Samantha; two friends, Wendy and Zahra; and an Australian tourist, Cristian), Ms. Gaffney gives you a little background on your new, potential employer -- which you'll want to pay close attention to, given that there's no director nor lighting cue to keep you focused -- before sending you on a "team-building" exercise designed to test your qualifications.

This is no mere scavenger hunt that has you searching graveyards, park benches, and laundromats, however: before long, you'll encounter a conspiracy theorist, Rene, who seeks to recruit you to another organization, Red Cloud, that wants to reveal the "truth" about bottom-line oriented corporations, the sort who manage to sell a country its own natural resources, or which makes its products with ever more cut-rate ingredients. No, under the watchful eye of creator Gyda Arber (who has been running the "You Are the Star" multimedia noir adventures that go by the Suspicious Package moniker), you'll spend the day receiving cryptic text messages and suspicious (and sometimes hard to hear) phone calls that provide you with just enough information to get you to the next location (or "scene").

As a work of pure theater, it's perhaps too diffracted -- there's a lot of walking and talking amongst yourselves, and there are a few technical difficulties that sometimes lead to confusion -- but so far as entertainment goes, it succeeds as an actual team-building event. It's a technologically updated version of Accomplice: New York, another theatrical walking-tour experience. The largest difference between them is that Red Cloud Rising is the more ambitiously plotted (and affordable), whereas Accomplice is slightly more engaging (and filling); both are well worth doing, though not on the same day. The real asset to Red Cloud Rising, however, and this speaks to Ms. Arber's experience as a director, is in the way it will transform the way in which you view its slice of the city -- which is ostensibly what theater's meant to do in the first place. This sort of site-specific engagement, which encourages Internet-based world-building outside of the show (which is already out of the theater), speaks to a very bright future of theater.

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