The piece runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., from April 10th-26th.
Experimental theater, like all experiments, can sometimes yield disastrous results, but I’m happy to report that “Life is Happening to Us Again,” staged by A Host of People and hosted by Hinterlands at Play House in Detroit, is an absolute triumph of experimentation with the form.
Co-directors Jake Hooker and Sherrine Azab introduce the performance.
The piece, as one might guess from the title, is a no-holds-barred examination of some of the big, existential questions we face in the modern age. The ensemble cast is broken into two sets of couples who occupy the same interior space without any awareness of each other for much of the play. This interior space, it should be noted, is packed with audience members, who are seated within a set designed not so much as theater-in-the-round, but completely immersive. The audience is free to observe any of the action, which extends to A/V components, and much of the seating requires active participation.
Audience member, artist Corrie Baldauf, enjoys some punch in her seat.
Seating is interspersed with the set to create a fully immersive experience.
But unlike some experimental theater, which can feel aimless in its envelope-pushing, LIHTUA is a beautiful and moving meditation on the growing divide between nature and human society, the tension of our daily relationships, and the ultimately repetitious aspects of existence, this last personified in an endless delivery cycle of pizzas, which ultimately are passed into the audience for mid-show snacking.
Pizza, the great social equalizer, is a major unit of societal currency throughout the performance (actress Emily Roll).
Actor Billy Mark, in a multimedia interlude featuring Russian existentialism.
The entire cast and crew is due credit for beautiful and engaging work, including co-directors Sherrine Azab and Jake Hooker, working from a script created by poet Heather Christie (and augmented by cast-workshopped contributions), a challenging set design by Carolyn Mraz and equally complex lighting and projection design by Tláloc López-Waterman. All this to form the backdrop for excellent ensemble acting by Karilú Forshee, Billy Mark, Samantha Moltmaker and Emily Roll, and a riveting multi-role performance by Detroit performance artist Bridget Michael.
Michael appears as multiple characters, including the Bad News Anchorman.
Michael’s performance warrants an outstanding mention. LIHTUA provides an ideal space for her gift of character acting, as she executes not only supporting roles, such as Pizza Delivery Man, but also the pivotal character, the “Sympathy Ghost,” who provides the communion point between estranged characters and audience members, as well as nature and society. Though co-director Jake Hooker tells me the piece began its original development phase in Brooklyn (Azab characterizes A Host of People as, “Born in Brooklyn but being raised in Detroit”), it is hard to imagine the piece without the presence and focus Michael brings to her role.
Michael turns in an alternately terrifying and hilarious multi-character performance.
The entire cast (Karilú Forshee standing left) gave deeply moving performances.
Actress Samantha Moltmaker, in the set gone to seed following the performance.
No question about it, despite its message of all things in repetition, LIHTUA is the kind of experimental theater you don’t want to miss out on the first time around.