“Signals” Lets Us Play The SCP Way — The EOI Review

Title for Signals Immersive Show

It is my first day here as an administrator. I thought it would be easy, a simple job where I help coordinate the security and containment of a research lab. But no one told me there would be internal politics. Or missing doctors. Or a man with the head of a fish. No one told me what the signals of this job actually mean.

What have I gotten myself into?

Signals is the newest creation from the Los Angeles-based immersive company Last Call Theatre that centers on the idea of “SCP.” SCP stands for “Secure, Contain and Protect” and relates to a fictional secret society called The Foundation and its goals of securing and containing intruders from alternate dimensions and protecting Earth and humanity. SCP has been an internet-based collaborative sci-fi horror project since 2007, a project that is open to anyone who wishes to add to its existence. Last Call’s choice to bring the idea of this project into an immersive experience is a great one as the concept of containing alien beings has great potential.

It is The Foundation, in fact, that starts the audience’s experience with the show. Once a guest buys a ticket, they are contacted by The Foundation over email and given a series of questions that separate them into various job groups–Security, Scientific, Admin and a final group whose name I won’t divulge here because there’s a lovely joke hidden within it. These job groups determine where audience members begin their journey and, to some extent, what sort of adventures they might have within the show.

The live experience is framed as the audience being interjected into facility 00013 at the beginning of a time-loop that will last two hours (the length of the show.) Guests are to spend their first day on the job trying to understand what happened there and why the time loop exists. Again, this is a good idea to way to set audiences up to dig into the various characters and plots within the experience.

In many ways, the show succeeds in what is is trying to do. There are multiple human members of the lab and multiple contained entities from elsewhere that audiences can interact with throughout. Each of the characters (human and otherwise) have their own agendas, goals and relationships with other characters that audiences can ferret out and either exploit or hide, depending on the audience’s choice. Characters can and do alter their attitudes and choices depending on the actions and conversations audiences give them.

Best of all, the show is humorous, a little creepy and quite fun if you jump into it with both feet. The cast, whether alien or human, maintained their characters very well. The contained Baba Yaga (played with seductive malice by Charnie Rose Dondrea) and the deeply creepy Plague Doctor (Jason Pollak under an appropriate mask) were standouts for the contained outsiders, while the entire Admin team of characters (Mikey Takla, Evan Wank, Riley Cole and Haven Schneider) were wonderful in whatever they did, be it divisive, secretive or simply naive. The strongest aspect of the show, by far, was the interactions I had with characters again and again throughout.

But there are aspects to the show that were less successful for me. Last Call Theatre did a show a few years ago called Ascend that used the same general set-up for audiences of giving them a starting group frame-work and then letting them run free within a space filled with characters. Both that show and Signals promised that audience choices could significantly alter the end of the plot. Ascend fulfilled that promise with the entire pantheon of gods altering each show thanks to its audience’s choice. In Signal, the potential for a different ending felt less possible because of the time loop bookending the narrative. No matter what choices audiences make, the show must end with a time loop and that, unfortunately, made my choices (and those of the audience around me) seem far less important or relevant. While I understand the idea of using a time-loop to narratively lock the show to its time length, it also led to a show whose ending felt weak.

The other aspect of Signals that interfered with my enjoyment of the show came from the various quests that audience members were given. First, there seemed to be an imbalance between the number of guests and the number of quests. I saw multiple people repeat quests that had been given to other people/groups before, which again diminished the narrative impact of each quest. For instance, at one point I was given a memo and told to take it to the security head and make sure that he saw it because this memo was supposedly new information. When I reached the security officer, however, I spotted the exact same memo on his desk already. Obviously the information I had could not be new if he already had it–and that largely derailed my interest in pursuing that particular plot. If a show is going to depend almost completely on audience members following quests given by characters, the show needs to make sure that audience members believe their quests are unique and important. This show did not strike that balance correctly during the performance I attended.

Signals is overall a fun dive into the ideas of immersive theatre and audience agency. For the Hollywood Fringe Festival (which this show is part of,) offering a lighter immersive experience that lets audience members play in an immersive space for a few hours is never a bad choice. Setting the story within the SCP universe is also a fun idea as it gives audience members a chance to peek at a thriving internet collaborative narrative in a unique, new way. There are pieces of the show that feel slightly unfocused or incomplete for me and I would love to see a finished, polished version of this show in the future. But the version that exists here was one that I enjoyed as I experienced it. So if it sounds like something you might enjoy, I suggest you go join The Foundation today. Who knows what you might meet once you do?

Signals has 8 more performances including tonight and through June 26. More information on the show can be found here. You can get your $30 tickets here.


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Teen Spirit All Over Again: KatnipProductions’ The Sleepover Review

The Sleepover: an Immersive 90's Experience!

I’m in the back seat of my mom’s car. She asks me whether I’ve done my homework before tonight’s festivities. I tell her “Yes” with a click of my mouse. Her classic “mom-happy” voice tells me to have a good time as she drops me off. Little does she know the truth: Eye On Immersive: KatnipProductions’ The Sleepover Immersive Review

We’re gonna watch Nickelodeon. All night long. That’s what a sleepover is all about.

In the COVID world, entertainment has become something we watch through screens at an astonishing rate. Nowhere has that become more evident than in the rapid proliferation of remote immersive experiences. Some create deep dives into performing artists. Others create escape rooms with live avatars. The immersive community constantly experiments with how to bring audiences into a story while leaving them in their own homes. The Sleepover, a one-hour comedic immersive show set in the 1990’s, makes its choice with a goofy and fun escape into a more innocent past.

Jointly created by KatnipProductions and the Cricklewood Theater Company, The Sleepover casts its audience members as guests at the title event held by teenager Mikey (Jason Lalich.) With Mikey’s parents (played with lovely over-the-top gusto by Misha Reeves Bybee and Joey Bybee) heading out for a Halloween party, Mikey’s older sister Louise (Susan Louise O’Connor) gets tasked with watching over her brother and his audience friends. That’s all the setup this show needs to leap headfirst into the humor of the story.

Mikey and Louise react to their sibling rivalry.

Jason Lalich and Susan Louise O’Connor

Comedy sits at the core of this show and it works very, very well. From the opening choose-your-own-adventure video to the death-defying dare at the end, this is an immersive experience that simply wants you to have a good time. Early on, when the plan to watch television goes awry and Louise claims its because of the house’s ghost, Mikey grabs a handful of Goosebump novels because obviously they have the appropriate research for handling spirits. Later, when audiences get separated into two groups to have smaller scenes with Mikey and Louise, we learn how cool an older sister must be by definition because she has music posters on her wall or how cool Mikey is because he knows how to play the Oregon Trail video game. There’s nothing truly serious happening here and that’s the point. The Sleepover’s plot hangs on quirky, strange little moments of fun that come across as sincere because that’s exactly what nights like that are all about.

Pizza and Goosebump books: a winning 90's sleepover!

The Sleepover sets itself up as a show with a loose plot and lots of audience interactions through Zoom. For this type of show to work, you need actors who can maintain strong characters with sharp improvisational abilities. That’s where this show really shines, as I absolutely loved the two siblings Mikey and Louise. Lalich’s portrayal of Mikey reminded me so much of the earnest awkwardness of a boy trying to impress his friends. It’s a performance that works as silly, sweet and almost painfully accurate. From vocal tone to attitude to facial expression, Lalich absolutely nails that age where boys want to be men but have no idea how to get there.

Susan Louise O'Connor shows you how 'cool' Louise is.

Susan Louise O’Connor

O’Connor’s take on Louise is equally sharp. She portrays the perfect arrogance of the older sibling, convinced of her coolness based on absolutely nothing at all. Certain that she is justified in whatever vengeance she levels on her younger brother for perceived slights. Determined to pose as the sophisticated woman even as she fails to spot obvious traps laid out to bring her down. O’Connor’s performance captures her character’s reality with the ease that only comes from a brilliant performance.

Jason Lalich asks if you're coming to his sleepover as Mikey.

Jason Lalich

The Sleepover has all the pieces necessary to give audiences a great escape from today’s complicated world. It combines humor, strong improvisation and even a heartfelt emotional moments as it lets you enjoy a simpler time. This is an engaging show in every way. It’s the kind of remote immersive experience that could run for a long time when word of mouth gets around. Most of all, The Sleepover offers a very welcome respite for a weary world.

The Sleepover has extended for three shows this weekend, Oct. 23 and 24th. Tickets are $19.90 for General Admission (anywhere) and $49.90 for VIP admission that includes a 90’s goodie box (local to Los Angeles only.)

UPDATE: The Sleepover has extended again for two more performances on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7.

For more information or to get tickets, head to the event link.


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