You walk into the dimly lit Odyssey Theatre and find your seat with the help of the flashlight bearing usher and you wait. The lights dim to blackness and don’t come back up for ninety minutes. During this extremely long blank voyage we are treated to a symphony of sounds, plays, poems, radio dramas and more. “More Dark” is the second in a pair of works entitled “Theatre in the Dark”, a series of short plays done in total darkness conceived by Ron Sossi and Sally Essex-Lopresti. The idea is to enhance the senses, bring a new understanding to work you may or may not be familiar with. In the end, though a fascinating idea, it is not one easily understood or enjoyed.
The first fifteen minutes of this experience are intriguing. The actor’s voices come at you from various points throughout the theatre, moving away from you, next to, behind you and in front of you. With a mix of recorded voices, live voices, background horns and whistles, along with music, you are definitely taken through a journey of sound.
During the first half hour there is a rendition of the Edgar Allen Poe poem, “Tell-Tale Heart”. It is an eerie poem that has always creeped me out. Here it is told in complete darkness except for a minuscule use of light as the speaker opens a door to peer into the room of his victim. It brings this poem to life and it was eerie to the core, true to Poe’s intent. Beyond that and the brief excerpt from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream the rest of the evening left me uncomfortable and sleepy.
About eighty minutes into the piece they shine a horridly bright spotlight on the entire audience in a cruel attempt to simulate the light many people talk about seeing in near death experiences. The only emotion this experiment made me feel was pain. Perhaps this was a metaphor, perhaps we were supposed to take something away from this unusual sensory experience, but all I walked away with was spots in my eyes and a massive headache paired with ringing in my over stimulated ears.
I will give props to the performers of this interesting piece. It cannot be easy to get a character across without the use of facial expressions, costumes and sets.In fact I think the actors did a great job and I am utterly fascinated with their clothesline system of getting across the stage. However the enthusiasm of the cast alone is not something that can save this production.
I am all for experimental theatre ~ try something new, get your voice out there. However, in order for that experiment to be successful it should probably be enjoyable or moving in a positive way. Otherwise you are not going to get the reactions out of your audience that you are hoping for. All in all this newest creation from the Odyssey is not for everyone and not to my personal liking. However, if you like trying new things and want to experience something completely different then head to West L.A. For either “Dark” or “More Dark” playing in repertory through December 16th.
**This review expresses the sole opinion of Mickala Jauregui, writer and owner of this blog.