There is no closure, no wrap up, no debriefing. Stars in the Night, an immersive theater experience that takes up to 12 voyeurs to Dumbo, Brooklyn, ends with its small audience staring blankly at a real estate agent as she declares “this is the end of our journey” and walks away.
Nowhere near the original location where the show had begun, this abrupt cauterization may cause mass confusion for a small audience of perfect strangers.
Stars in the Night is first-hand a tale of lives intertwined under the stars.
Unlike mainstream theater, audience members are expected to travel on foot, following the action as it progresses through three areas all located around Dumbo. In theory, this experience seems enticing.
In practice, the immersive experience format is not quite right for the story.
This sentiment is reinforced immediately by the location of the first scene. Much of the pertinent beginning-of-the-show exposition has the audience outdoors, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
While the views are stunning, the monologue itself is almost completely drowned out by the sound of the subway crossing overhead.
This poor choice of location is the home of two consecutive scenes. Noise levels of that magnitude can become deeply frustrating.
One would think that the Brooklyn Bridge subway would come into play when planning the path of a show in Dumbo. Perhaps placing scenes near the subway was intentional, but the decision’s detraction from the experience makes it seem otherwise. There is some redemption in the fact that the second scene is rather tumultuous, as a grief-stricken and “tweaked out” young man runs in to beg the audience to help search for his lost sister.
The combination of the acting alongside the lights and the noise from the train creates a sense of urgency.
Though it seems more than likely that the same feeling could have been replicated on a stage, as seen by the success of the following scene that takes place indoors.
These scenes have incredibly intricate sets that would have really contributed to the immersive experience if the audience were allowed to explore them instead of just watching from a distance, no different than watching a show on a stage from the floor seats.
The last two scenes take place in the home of a young couple. Items within the living room area indicate that it is a flashback, and the young couple are parents to a shop owner visited previously in the show.
Before the start of the performance, the audience is deliberately asked not to move around the spaces too much. This begs the question of why writer-directors Stephanie Feury and Nathan Keyes would leave certain exposition to items the audience may not even get to see.
That being said, the story in itself is interesting and has some really clever transitional aspects.
As mentioned before, one of the characters is a real estate agent functioning as a guide to bring the group from location to location.
For once, the immersive format is highlighted with the use of this character. With her presence comes energy and a certain sense of being present that encourages the audience to follow her and engage.
She has a normalcy that can truly convince the audience that they will be going to see properties in Brooklyn, when in reality they are just receiving a new piece of the puzzle that is this story.
Between every thought-provoking series of events the audience can expect a chipper, capri-wearing, spring-stepping person to guide them to a new place.
This act is so well-timed and well-executed that it can easily be considered Stars in the Night’s redeeming quality. This character is what makes the experience truly immersive.
Unfortunately, she only appears in between the last three scenes. Another mistake.
Stars in the Night misses the mark. Immersive theater is meant to bring the audience into the story.
It is imperative that a natural atmosphere is established in order to make it believable.
While the story is interesting, a staged production would have fared better in comparison to this one in Dumbo, as it would not have to combat trains and meticulous scrutiny. It is so disappointing that not even the real estate agent could provide comfort in the end, as it is she who abandons the audience.
The audience of Stars in the Night is given no wrapup or closure to quite a tumultuous experience.
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