Fefu and Her Friends got me all wet

May 30, 2009

Today, I went to a UCSC production of Fefu and Her Friends. This entailed driving up Empire Grade through those lovely hills to a house in Bonny Doon known as the Clap Trap. The house was lovely and, I’m sure, the setting of many interesting non-related hijinks (especially judging by the name). Among the small cast was my dear friend and housemate Deepika Singamsetty, who told us about the play and of course performed admirably in it.

I’ve never seen a play in this format, where the audience is split into groups and led around the house to view different scenes theatre played out simultaneously in different parts of the house. It was intensely intimate, and left the feeling of being squashed face-first up against the fourth wall. At one point, an audience member sneezed and a performer blessed her without interrupting the action or breaking character at all– that’s how cozy it was.

Like an exagerated theatre-in-the-round, we were often behind the backs of one of the performers during a scene. Unlike any traditional theatre, we were physically on the set, and usually less than five feet from the performers. It was bizarre, because once in a while the performers would use their stage-voice instead of their indoor-voice, and the difference was a little jarring. In the small group scenes, the performers didn’t have to project at all to be perfectly audible. Also, because of the somewhat awkward shapes of the rooms, once in a while performers had to directly interact with the audience simply to get through the doorways.

This almost claustrophobic intimacy had some weird effects. I was much more emotionally connected to certain characters, especially at times when they were making almost direct eye-contact with me personally as an effect of the angles at which everyone in the room was positioned. It didn’t feel any less dramatic, nor any more realistic, than most plays I’ve seen, but I felt pulled into the artifice as if I were myself a character in the drama.

It also reminded me that I should get working on my own darn play, because what a wonderful medium in which to write.

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