Theatre in the Dark: More Dark
Every actor desires their moment in the spotlight. The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s new theatrical experience, "Theatre in the Dark" literally makes it impossible for them to achieve this. Consisting of a series of short plays, "Theatre in the Dark" takes place in pitch blackness, leaving its actors to captivate an audience that is stripped of their sight.
"Theatre in the Dark" is made up of two separate performances, "Dark" and "More Dark." Both are entirely different with only darkness as a commonality, allowing theater goers the opportunity to experience this unique show twice. I attended "More Dark," the second offering which opened Nov. 10.
Taking inspiration from Battersea Arts Centre’s successful dark theatre run in the 1998 London Fringe Festival, Artistic Director Ron Sossi has now brought the concept overseas with a cast of 11 actors, 13 playwrights and six directors. Each 90-minute performance offers 12 to 15 short pieces ranging from original works to timeless classics.
I was very intrigued by the concept of theater in the dark and had no idea what to expect. Battling with my personal phobia of the dark, I was convinced that the performance couldn’t possibly take place in complete blackness. I told myself there had to be candles, dim lighting or lanterns of some sort. But there isn’t, with the exception of some flickers of light here and there to aid in certain pieces, you will be left utterly in the shadows with plenty of things going bump in the night. The audience must rely entirely on sound and its imagination throughout.
"More Dark" offered 15 selections, each unique in its own way. Mainly unknown, original works from local playwrights, some of the performances unfortunately fell short. "The Outpatient," which opened the show, attempts to put you in the shoes of a man who has lost his sight and is relying on the sounds of his surroundings to get by. Yapping dogs and cursing passersby not only fail to transport you into the blind man’s world, but almost want to make you cover your ears, blocking out yet another sense.
A montage of sex-themed shorts titled "Sex Collage" also does little to invoke the imagination, not quite reaching the inner secrets and personal experiences of peoples’ sexuality for which it so desperately grasps.
Some performances, however, will have your imagination running rampant. "Eaten," is a charming and macabre tale of a man, his strange and hungry pet and a most unfortunate woman. You’ll find yourself squirming in your seat as you paint the picture of what is happening on stage in your mind. John O’Keefe’s "Ghosts" is also quite memorable, playing with the subject of death and spirits that will chill you to the bone.
Borrowing from the classics, "More Dark" also serves up Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." Using speakers placed around the auditorium, the audience is surrounded with the sounds of countless sprites. I found myself turning my head every which way as the voices flitted around me, so much so that it took away from the performance itself. I didn’t mind this much as I found that chasing the mystical fairies with my ears was far more entertaining than the actor’s reading of the famous lines. The rash and exaggerated delivery took away from the magic of one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.
And what performance based on darkness and the unknown would be complete without a piece from Edgar Allen Poe? Directed by Sossi himself, Poe’s "Tell-Tale Heart" was definitely high on my list of anticipated shorts. But like the other performances throughout the evening, the actor here seemed to focus more on the force and volume of his voice, taking for granted the ingenious horror delivered by the story itself. In this case, a lesson of "less is more" would have helped. Sometimes letting the darkness fill itself with silence can be all the more frightening.
"More Dark" will take you on a journey through the blackness where you will experience fear, loneliness, madness, magic and even love. While some of the performances might leave you (for lack of a better term) in the dark, it is an inimitable show worth seeing. More so, it is one of those rare and unique experiences that will have you making use of something we seem to lose touch with as adults -- our imaginations.
"Dark" and "More Dark" play in repertory through Dec. 16 at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd in West Los Angeles. For info or tickets, call 310-477-2055 or visit www.OdysseyTheatre.com.