I saw *The Encounter* on Broadway on 9/20.  Ben Brantley of the NY Times described it as the most immersive theatrical experience he'd ever had, or something like that.  Sounded intriguing, I had access to a cheap ticket, so I went.

I'd never seen a play anything like it.  Each audience member has headphones and nearly all of the sound in the show is processed through the headphones.  I noticed one moment in the show when the sound was actually in the theater and it was loud enough so I could hear it even with the headphones on, but that was the only instance.  The sound design was genius: I sometimes heard a voice in my left ear, sometimes my right, sometimes the sound seemed to come from behind me, it was fascinating.  And the layering of sounds: the actor onstage speaking into a microphone, a prerecorded voice, music, animal noises, all sorts of things, carefully orchestrated and calibrated.

 

The story was a bit of a weak link.  It's about an American photographer who gets lost in the Amazon and is taken in by a remote tribe.  There was more than a bit of the Noble Savage, and no one needs to hear that tired old story anymore.  It didn't seem like the best story to tell in this format.

 

The show was written, directed, and performed by English actor Simon McBurney, clearly a labor of love, and he's very talented.  But the biggest problem was that it wasn't a PLAY.  There was nothing in the show that felt like it needed to happen onstage.  It would have been more effective as a movie, with headphones.  Or even streaming online, with headphones.  At no moment was it important that there was a living, breathing human being onstage.  That's a big problem.

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