Conceived and Directed by Lisa Cohen, Kseniya Ovchinnikova, and Matt Miazgowicz
Produced by Nuage Productions
Off Off Broadway, Immersive/Dance Theater
Ran through 4.7.19
Secret Location in Williamsburg
by Asya Gorovits on 4.21.19
The cast of Nocturnes. Photo by Arnaldo Vargas.
BOTTOM LINE: An immersive piece combines dance and spoken word in a Jung-esque meditation on dreams.
A good immersive theatre piece begins long before the audience enters the space. A day before my visit to Nocturnes in early April I received an invitation from "The Doctor" via email to attend a party celebrating the conclusion of his study of dreams. Already intrigued, audience members arrive to the secret location in Williamsburg and, along with a couple dozen other guests, are let into the spacious studio, sunken in haze and purple light. Both clad in whimsical white dresses, Miss B (Sydney Tucker) and Mister X (Fernando Moya Delgado), the Doctor’s agitated assistants (or patients?) distribute vials filled with clear bubbly liquid; however, we must wait for the Doctor to arrive before toasting and drinking.
The Doctor never comes. The vials are emptied. And although they contain just seltzer, they might as well contain a dash of LSD because the best word to describe Nocturnes is “hallucinatory.” Co-creators Lisa Cohen, Kseniya Ovchinnikova, and Matt Miazgowicz drew their inspiration from mystical and psychoanalytical approaches to dreams. Poetic monologues by Matt Miazgowicz combine with site-specific choreography developed in collaboration with six performers, for an experience stylistically similar to Then She Fell by Third Rail Projects.
The entire audience shares an opening dance scene and the finale, but is split into three parts during the show to witness three simultaneously unfolding scenes in smaller groups. Before each scene, Miss B and Mister X busy themselves with labeling audience members with sticker dots in neon orange, pink or green before sending them off to the next “dream.” Their mood swings from joyous to morbid as the show progresses. Interacting with them (however fleetingly) is always enjoyable, but the process of regrouping the audience each time seems unnecessary and runs the risk of taking you out of the show.
The three scenes unfolding in the various nooks of the space are connected by association more than by a story. Kelsey Rondeau blows bubbles while seated on an inflated swan, and then dances amongst the audience while delivering an obscure monologue about dreams. Julia Bengtsson and Zachary Denison dance on every inch of a claustrophobic loft (including the walls and even the ceiling) with the audience peering through plexiglass. Tessa Allen tells a tale about a mother whose beautiful daughter was replaced one night with an evil doppelganger, with one audience member tucked into a little bed and a huge glowing sphere ominously hanging above the scene.
The minimalism of the scenery by Kseniya Ovchinnikova was likely due to the piece's short run (a single weekend), but worked for the most part, though a single unnecessary and confusing installation on one of the walls hinted that there might have been more artifacts planned but not executed. The sound design by Armand Bernardi was spot on: not too intrusive yet persistently pushing the energy towards the agonizing resolution.
Nocturnes was full of interesting ideas and talented performers. The collaborative authorship was evident, yet the different “handwriting” still came together beautifully. The blend of dance and monologue was realized successfully. But if it plans to stand out in the saturated immersive scene, there's room for improvement. The concept seems somewhat vague, especially in regard to the role of the audience. Are we all subjects in the study? Are we observers of the subjects? Are we dreaming or are we watching somebody else’s dream? And what happened to The Doctor, does he even exist? It’s easy to say that everybody decides for themselves, but it would be helpful to be given more “tools” with which to toy around in this intriguing and hazy (both physically and conceptually) production.
(Nocturnes played at a secret location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on April 4-7, 2019 . The running time was 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets were $100. For more information visit experiencenocturnes.com.)
Nocturnes is conceived and directed by Lisa Cohen, Kseniya Ovchinnikova, and Matt Miazgowicz. Text by Matt Miazgowicz. Art Direction and Production Design by Kseniya Ovchinnikova. Costume Design by Kseniya Ovchinnikova and Sarah Esmoingt. Sound Design by Armand Bernardi. Lighting Design by Jacob Vorperian. Produced by Nuage Productions, Lisa Cohen, Hanna Zakouri, Jacob Vorperian, and Kimberly Flynn.
The cast is Tessa Allen, Julia Bengtsson, Fernando Moya Delgado, Zachary Denison, Kelsey Rondeau, and Sydney Tucker.