Currently, the brand new production "BENEATH THE DARKNESS" has not yet received press.
However, the following is a collection from The Alchemist Theatre's first immersive production
"FAUST: AN EVENING AT THE MEPHISTO THEATRE."
"BENEATH THE DARKNESS" takes what we learned from "FAUST" and has greatly expanded upon the model, combining an immersive, dramatic story with "escape room" type puzzles and thousands more square feet of detailed sets to explore and interact with.
…productions at the Alchemist never shy away from herculean challenges…. Faust: An Evening
at the Mephisto Theatre, continues in that tradition, marrying a long, complex script with drama
that travels throughout the building. Scenes have been written for multiple stages, and the
action runs concurrently throughout the space. In effect, Kopec has written several interlocking
plays that also stand alone. The audience is free to move from room to room, scene to scene,
as the drama progresses. With a huge cast inhabiting the entire building, this is one of the most
ambitious productions of the theater season. (Shepherd Express, 10/6/11)
Good theater pulls a viewer into the story. When it's done right, talented theater professionals can almost make an audience feel as if they were living in the world portrayed on stage.
If they can work that kind of magic from a stationary point in a theater, it makes sense that constructing a tangible world for the audience to explore, observe and move through at their whim could breathe even more realism into the life of a story.
That logic is at the root of the Alchemist Theatre's one-of-a-kind upcoming production of "Faust: An Evening at the Mephisto Theatre." (OnMilwaukee, 9/13/11)
It’s more than just illusion, though . . . there’s talk of a dark figure walking around the shadows
who just might be the antagonist spoken of in the original legend…..The story plays out on
multiple stages throughout the basement and ground floor of the Alchemist Theatre building.
Not a completely interactive show, interaction forms part of the narrative. Everyone carries their
own personal theatre with them through a space, which allows for an incredible amount of
intimacy with actors and story….we’re relating to the action in a space that we’re also interacting
with, albeit on a superficial level. It almost feels kind of uncomfortably voyeuristic staring at this
couple as they’re having this conversation because it has only the faintest hint of transcendently
artificial theatricality…..but it was kind of surprising just how many moments there were like that
where the rest of the audience ends up somewhere else…no two people are going to
experience this the same way. This is one of the single most unique theatre experiences I’ve
ever had. Precisely why this is defies easy definition. Somehow the whole thing ends with a sign
along from some journey’s early 1980’s escape and though it’s completely anachronistic, it
makes perfect sense. (Shepherd Express, 10/1/11)
Because the audience is free to roam, the technical blocking of Faust was intense and complicated. Kopec is confident that everyone will get the basic arcs of the on-stage and off-stage stories. Some scenes will repeat several times, to afford maximum exposure, and somes scenes performed in disparate locations will convey some of the same vital information.
Still, this Faust is like those choose-your-own-adventure books, as everyone’s experience will differ. The show is designed to draw attention in many different directions, to force you to decide for yourself the show you want to see. (Urban Milwaukee, 9/28/11)
The real ambitious end of the production is the fact that it’s written for multiple “stages” within
the building, which houses the Alchemist. Kopec is writing a script with characters that move in
and out of scenes on multiple levels all over the building…. it can be a lot of fun for the
audience-every single member of which gets a distinctly different experience….Each member of
the audience is free to move in and around the space as they likekind of a high-end high-
concept haunted house version of horror theatre . . .(Shepherd Express, 7/8/11)
…almost every space in The Alchemist becomes a stage. The audience is encouraged to move
into the basement, where the show unfolds across all 6,000 square feet of the venue….The
show is not meant to take place in chronological order, but rather to feel like a dream….There is
no way that an audience member can know everything that is happening, as so many scenes
are taking place all at once. Some of the major scenes were repeated, and the important points
were incorporated into more than one scene, so the audience is never lost, no matter what
order they view the scenes in…..This way of storytelling can be confusing, but also interesting.
Each audience member sees the show in a unique perspective. Everyone witnesses different
scenes, so no one has the same viewing experience. Anything left unexplained is up to the
viewer’s interpretation. (Marquette Wire, October 6, 11)
….This juxtaposition comments on the art and business of theater: Sometimes, what happens
on stage is nothing compared to the drama of life in the theater…… Voyeurism is part of the
appeal. To heighten the frisson, Alchemist will issue masks to each member of the audience…..
Still, this Faust is like those choose-your- own-adventure books, as everyone’s experience will
differ. The show is designed to draw attention in many different directions, to force you to decide
for yourself the show you want to see. ( Urban Milwaukee, 9/28/11)
Actively following characters through the show and receiving limited instructions about
reconciling missing information in the story in real-time, presents real life challenges to the
audience both physically and psychologically that actors tend to embrace naturally. As an
audience member that is a part of the actors world but not in it, one can have a lot of fun with
Faust just taking the “fly-on- the-wall” approach to social situations. Audience members are
provided a masquerade to assist in this transformation. (Local Trolley, 10/6/11)