Saw the acclaimed production of The Encounter recently at the always inviting Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
Every time I attend a production there, it makes me think how great, and convenient, it would be if Malibu had a similar center, with a creative and resourceful administration. There is always hope.
Meanwhile, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites, The Encounter is one of those productions I would definitely label creative, and frankly challenging. But I also would add that though it lost me at times, I found it riveting, indeed mesmerizing, and would recommend it, especially to those who appreciate what is described as immersive theatre.
We are talking here of avant-garde productions that plumb your imagination, employing every device imaginable to play on whatever senses are exposed, which was sight and hearing at the Wallis.
For The Encounter, this required the audience putting on small earphones attached to each seat, which when adjusted transmit wraparound sensitizing sound that creates a sense of space.
Then there is the open set that looked like one hell of a messy work room, featuring a plain table cluttered with water bottles, a carton of exposed film, and in stage center, a large bulbous binaural microphone, manned by an intense, frenetic, confiding Simon McBurney, in a wrinkled Tee-shirt and jeans.
He is IT, the show’s single performer, and director, with a variety of voices, and supported by mind bending sound and lighting designers. He tells the true story of a National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 became lost in the Brazilian Amazon while in search of the mysterious Mayoruna tribe.
It is a wild telling, based on a book by a Romanian journalist, Petru Popescu, entitled “The Encounter: Amazon Beaming.” that McIntrye quotes from with mounting passion, only to be interrupted by his young daughter who can’t seem to fall asleep, and whose squeaky voice we hear asking for water, questioning what her father is doing, and finally gets him to tell her a story.
Of course, it is about this photographer who gets lost in jungle. It is definitely a production you also can get lost in, and enjoy.
If so, you are going to have to get to the Wallis this weekend, for the remaining performances.