Seeing You

Finally saw the amazing Christopher Grant and Lauren Yalango-Grant in the immersive theatre Seeing You. Playing in Chelsea under the High Line until July 30th. Go see the show!

I bought my ticket more than six weeks ago, and have been eagerly awaiting the experience. Even though I’ve already seen various photos online, I was still taken by dramatic dance scenes. They were emotional and drew attention to numerous heavy topics. They were also creative and technically daring — such as lifts on a moving table.

When we first entered the performance space, we were free to move around and observe the characters: American soldiers, their family, and loved ones during World War II. A sister joked with her brother, and told him to come home (and survive the war). A wife revealed to her enlisted husband that she’s pregnant. And so on.

The entire production takes place in one continuous large space on a single floor. You are never more than a few steps away from a cast member. There are no walls, and so you can easily see and move between the actions. Up to this point, everything felt like an intimate version of “Sleep No More.”

However, as we we soon found out, this show had much much more.

Air raid sirens went off, and the audience members were ushered into bomb shelters. We learnt to protect themselves. Bombs don’t usually kill directly, but their shockwaves could still incinerate our vital organs. We covered our eyes and ears. (As I grew up in Taiwan, an island under the threat of a Chinese attack, this actually brought back childhood memories.)

Throughout the evening, we were lead through a sequence of distinct themes and heavy topics.

Helping with the war efforts. Donning radioactive suits and conducting nuclear research. Uncomfortable subplots began to emerge. In a townhall meeting, audience members were asked how many Japanese civilians we were willing to kill, to save American soldiers. What about the Japanese art teacher in New Jersey? What about the black private wanting to fight the war alongside his white company members? Same-sex romance? Inter-racial love?

The topics are explored through dance and movements. The deliveries are just as unique and varied as the themes.

A duet performed on a clothing rack. Dancing in a cafe in Hoboken. Dancing on and under a bed. A dinner that turned into a dance but ended in shattered plates. A bloodbath on stage. A grand tribute to the troupes. A “Shadowland”-style choreography of the battles.

The most dramatic scene was when the American soldiers and loved ones took turns dancing on a moving table that circled the entire production space until it slammed into… none other than the Japanese art teacher from New Jersey.

For a truly immersive and engaging theatre experience, check out Seeing You!

On Stage with The Great Comet

The Great Comet: Re-watched the show and finally experienced its true magic!!! More more more! I want to go back again already.

I got my onstage seating this afternoon. Center table. Frontmost chair. First audience member behind Pierre’s Study. I was literally in the spotlight as it shined on Pierre and Natasha who stood inches away from me.

Love love love the immersive and interactive experience.

Playboy Anatole toys with Natasha, turns around, leans into our table, and makes a face to let us know what he really wants from the young girl. Natasha looks us in the eyes, as she sings and pours her heart out. Violinist plays to our table. We scream at the top of our lungs and cheer on the dancers in Balaga.

Absolutely love the story and the cast’s performance.

Denée Benton is incredible as she draws us into young Natasha’s mind: her insatiable desire for love and attention, her conflicting sense of responsibility and pleasure, and her eventual sadness and regret.

Josh Groban perfectly delivers “Dust and Ashes” and “Pierre and Natasha” to capture the sentiment of two acts. The hopeless loveless marriage that has entrapped Pierre, and the same reckless careless attitude that brought down Natasha too. Yet, despite their sorry states, Pierre comforts Natasha and she returns one last grateful glance. In that moment, Pierre understands that perhaps, just perhaps, love will come again.

Lucas Steele is even more exuberant and flamboyant as Anatole today.

Ashley Pérez Flanagan, understudy for Sonya, beautifully delivers another one of my favorite songs, “Sonya Alone”. Ashley perfectly captures Sonya’s difficult distressing choice to remain a true friend to Natasha by turning against her, in the hopes that someday Natasha will forgive her. The song is a major turning point in the story. Bravos for the wonderful performance and nailing the transition.

Finally, lighting and scene designs are even more amazing seen from onstage.

All the table lamps placed throughout the orchestra and balcony respond to the story, lighting up the audience’s faces as part of the scene design. Wow!