Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: The Encounter

Take a Trip in Your Head to the Amazon
By Lauren Yarger
The sounds of the Brazilian rain forest surround you as technology brings to the stage a tale from a time and place that would seem as lost to modern times as it does from the photographer who finds himself trying to communicate during The Encounter with a lost Amazon village.

The year is 1969 and National Geographic photographer Lorem McIntyre (Simon McBurney, who conceived of the play inspired  by the book "Amazon Beaming" by Petru Popescu and who also co-directs with Kirsty Housley) arrives in Brazil's Javari Valley to photograph the indigenous Mayoruna at the mouth of the Amazon River.

During his encounter, which takes place over an undetermined time. McIntyre appears to hallucinate -- perhaps because of magic spells, drugs or a fever -- and is able to communicate with the chief, whom he nicknames Barnacle because of his many warts) by a form of telepathy called beaming.

The one-man show at first has the feel of a radio play with McBurney sitting at a table on a stage backdropped with a grey houndstooth pattern (design by Michael Levine ) on which projections (Will Duke, design) change the mood or make it look like rain (lighting design by Paul Anderson). What makes this production unique is the use of audience headsets throughout. 

The headsets (Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound design) are required to hear what is taking place beyond watching McBurney move around a bit on stage. Multiple characters are recorded and interact with the actor from tribes people to his young daughter who wants a story before going to bed. Sounds of the plane dropping off McIntyre, the Amazon and nature all can be heard.

The effect is the creation of an interactive and different experience for a Broadway stage. A side effect, however, is the tendency to want to nod off. Something about being cocooned in the headset environment along with a plot that isn't overly exciting had me fighting off sleep for most of the presentation. 

About 30 minutes of the one-hour, 45-minute play could probably be cut. Perhaps then it would hold attention more. As it is, it certainly is a unique experience in storytelling. For those who enjoy interactive experiences, this probably is for you. The surround-sound type of effects make it sound as through a mosquito has just landed on your ear or that the person in the row behind you is whispering to you. As someone who doesn't particularly enjoy plugging in to electronic devices for entertainment, I'd rather use my eyes than my ears and see the Amazon come to life on stage.

The show has played to critical success in London, where McBurney is co-founder and artistic director of Complicite, one of Britain's most innovative theater companies. Mnemonic,  All My Sons and The Chairs have had New York runs.

Note: Richard Katz plays the role at certain performances.

The Encounter meets a wired audience through Jan. 8 at the John Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Tuesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $65.00 - $145. theencounterbroadway.com

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- A spell is cast

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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