The lights dim on the audience as its one brave volunteer makes his way up to the stage. He stands next to our guide and narrator, Y (Kali Skatchke), as she prepares to transport him into a world of space- chock-full of aliens, androids, smugglers, space monks, and whiny villains. She assures him that this transporting thing works... at least most of the time. As the lights go down all the way each of us readies ourselves for a night of geekery that may or may not surpass our own tastes. We must watch this audience volunteer’s journey to find out.
Stellar Productions Brings Unique Interactive Show
ENGAGE is a Sci-Fi themed show like no other. Directed by Jillian Mueller and written/produced by Brendan Stallings, the show combines established characters and storylines with bits of improv and a choose-your-own adventure option for the volunteer. Herein lies the most unique aspect of the show: one audience members gets to influence some of the main directions of the storyline. Tonight’s brave man joined the cast with gusto, becoming captain of a ship (with a name he picked himself) and meeting his crew excitedly. Here enters the Alien (Cat McKay), the Smuggler (Marcus Cunningham), the Android (Ben Albovias), and the Space Monk (Kate Vargulich). Each of them makes up his crew of outlaws, and each of them has a mysterious backstory. They show off their fighting prowess and their quick wit before turning to the storyline at hand- one in which the volunteer chooses who does what. Playwright Brendan Stallings makes a flashy appearance as the villain attempting to capture the crew members and collect the bounty on their heads.
One of the most notable aspects of ENGAGE comes from its frenzied fight sequences directed by R&D Choreography. Each character brings a different weapon to the fray, and their movement, if very clearly staged, is still exciting and fast-paced enough to keep us on our toes. The clever quips and (sometimes improvised) back-and-forth between the characters make for an enjoyable counter to the physical fights. The actors successfully remain true to their sci-fi world, even as some of the volunteer’s choices trip them up.
Recommended for any geek in any world- there will be a reference or two for you. Not recommended for anyone looking to see a simple or straightforward production- ENGAGE is strange, out of control, and interactive. That’s what makes it so much fun.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: an excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago.
1229 W. Belmont Avenue
August 4th-August 25th
Thursday-Saturday at 8 PM