Fifty years ago this month, October, 1971, a shape shifter by the name of Werner Erhard released upon the world Erhard Seminars Training: est (sic), employing a smattering of zen and North Korean brainwashing techniques, adherents were 'trained' to become better people: Better Human Beings. The 'training' only lasted for two weeks, but the shiny eyed emerged ready to change the world. Shades of Scientology (L.Ron Hubbard, 1953) and the subsequent iterations of est: the quest for 'answers' to our lives: spiritual, physical and mental, even eternal, may lie just beyond that 'sign post up ahead' as we enter.. The Twilight Zone. (Cue musical sting..)
|Anna voiced by Elise DuRant|
Thank goodness for Chris Fields and the Echo Theatre's ability to defy convention and bring theatre to this threshold of inquiry.
The act of rising to an important position or a higher level"
D.G. Watson's world premiere inquiry into the Beyond or even the Great Beyond, presents a vague answer to what to do to advance the culture: to ascend. I think. The play delivers attendees (please leave your phones on!) to a roller coaster ride with opportunities for audience participation. This part fails.
Dr. Monica Traver (Karen Sours Albisua) awakens to find herself in something of a "state." Her computer assistant realized 'self' (perhaps): Annana (voiced by Elise Durant) has failed to awaken her. Annana is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) personality with all knowledge who is at Monica's beckon call.
Somewhat shaky technical issues parallel the acting glitches in an attempt to involve the audience to participate with sort of Call & Response. Rebel (Charrell Mack) is discovered trapped inside a 'pod' for reasons later to be revealed. After Rebel establishes contact with the audience, she has someone actually call Dr. Traver in an attempt to obtain the code for Rebel to escape from her pod. (It's 6252774) The over all premise, solipsystic in nature (I had to look it up, you might, too), is a fascinating notion: to spend time in suspended animation and essentially dream your troubles away. The incredibly slow evolution of the argument of the play, combined with a cast that may have ditched their elocution class a time or two, makes this an evening too long and hesitant to be fully enjoyed.. UNLESS.. you have the patience to cull the kernels of the notion from the old nursury round
"Row Row Row Your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily merrily
Life is but a dream.. (repeat.. again and again)"
Can you dig it?
"Ascension" was developed in the time of dampanic. The technical apsect, though rocky in tonight's performance are impressive. Projections, especially the graphics for the AI genius Ananna, have great potential.
The Echo literally tries stuff. Standing applause for this experiment, that with time, the intended sense of other worldliness may emerge. Have you heard of the 'Second Sun?' A huge problem is the pace and actors failure to enunciate to bring their characters fully to life. Audience participation slows things. Some stage waits are interminable.
Elio Oliver's detailed tech, with Pod Design by Bill Voorhees; sound by Black Music the Avatar!! drive Watson's slowly paced vision from presentation to confusion to lucidity. This adventure will leave the audience either transformed or thoroughly confused as they exit into the cool October evening. It's a trip.
Sami Cavestani plays Evan. Steve Hofvendahl is Raithmore. Only Leandro Cano as The Caretaker rises to the ocassion with not so veiled threats from time to time. And, just what time is it, anyway? Are we only just watching a play? What year is it? Really??
by D.G Watson
Directed by Ahmed Best
Atwater Vilage Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Performances: Oct. 6 – Nov. 18
• Tuesdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 5 (preview), Oct. 12, Oct. 26, Nov. 2, Nov. 9, Nov. 16 (dark Oct. 19)
• Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 6 (Opening Night), Oct. 13, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, Nov. 10, Nov. 17 (dark Oct. 20)
• Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18 (dark Oct. 21)
Tickets and information: