Trouble on Planet Earth ***1/2 (Fringe Factory until Sunday, March 16, 2008)

February 29, 2008

This experimental show is worth experiencing, not for the script of the acting, but for the experience.

The intriguing element that provides interest for this show, is the small gadget each audience member is given, enabling them to register votes throughout the evening.

The system is simple. At certain points in the show, the cast asks the audience to decide which path to follow in the story. For example, when our character, suffering amnesia after a car accident on a deserted strip of road in the middle of the night, must decide between hailing down an oncoming car, using a nearby payphone or hiding in the woods with a mysterious suitcase salvaged from the wreck, we must vote.

And so, we choose the plot lines the story will follow, leading to one of 24 different endings.

It is this device that provides us with a poignant reminder of how much we actually control our own lives’ plot lines. Every decision we make means we are foregoing certain opportunities and experiences in deference to others. This also reminds us that we do have potential to make decisions every day. And yet, how often do we make habitual choices while on autopilot? How often have we robbed ourselves of our full potential by defaulting to the path of least resistance?

While this fresh approach to audience interaction is a satisfying device, it does shine alone. Unfortunately, there is no depth to the acting or the script. Our young troupe presents us with a story, in a bare bones fashion similar to the way movies are first devised using storyboards. Lines are repeated, as if their simple recitation is achievement enough. I should add, there is a lot to remember – the cast has learned many more hours worth of script than are actually performed on any given evening.

Although technology trumps art in this production, there is much to be gleaned from the experience. I look forward to future projects where more attention can be paid to the theatrical foundation of the show.

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