Last Week for "Tamara" at Quantum Theatre | Program Notes

Last Week for "Tamara" at Quantum Theatre

by

comment

Just five performances remain of this unique theatrical event … and they are all sold out.

But if you have scored a ticket to this huge hit for Quantum, here are some things to look out for (based on my experience at one show last week).

It’s a sprawling historical drama set in Italy in 1927, under Mussolini, in the grand home of a famous poet. Ten actors play the poet and his famous guests — and the house is played by Rodef Shalom temple. But the real novelty is that the actors move all around the huge building, and audience members must pick an actor to follow to his or her scenes. (You can switch whom you follow as often as you like.) It’s an “experience,” as they say, with a catered dinner at intermission. (Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for CP.)

The champagne you’re given before the show, when you are free to wander the temple’s garden, will make you feel a little aristocratic. But once you start scurrying after one actor or another as they move without warning from room to room, you’ll quickly start feeling like one of the servants themselves.

While all the actors move around, if your mobility is limited, you might want to avoid the younger characters — like the chauffeur, Mario, and the maid, Emelia, who tend to cover the most ground the fastest.

Aside from the running about, you might wonder at first what makes experiencing this 1981 play by John Krisanc feel so different. Because some of the scenes involve a monologue, or dialogue, in a room distant from all the other action, some commentators have called Tamara “cinematic.” But I think the strangeness of it also has to do with your physical proximity to the actors in real space: They act standing right next to you, or even brush past you on the way to their next mark, which is definitely more theater than cinema.

During the first act, you’ll probably encounter some traffic-flow problems involving other audience members, who all move at different speeds, and especially when there’s only one doorway out of the room. With each new scene, early arrivers are instructed to move to the opposite end of the room, so everyone can fit — but that means that if you arrive first, you’ll probably leave the room last.

However, this isn’t something to overworry: Even if you caught every word of dialogue by every character you followed, you’d still only experience a fraction of the play, even though a few scenes involve every character.

Finally, in the second act, there’s good fun to be had watching how fellow audience members have adapted to the challenges of this rather active form of spectatorship. If some ticketholders reacted only slowly to actors leaving a room in Act I, by Act II many will be fairly leaping off the mark, if only to get a jump on their fellow patrons.

At any rate, with Tamara’s run of sellout shows in the wake of Bricolage’s success with its differently interactive shows STRATA and OJO, Pittsburghers have definitively established that this kind of theater is for them.

Add a comment