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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bricolage's STRATA

Posted by on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

There are less than two weeks left to see this crazily ambitious show — truly a theatrical event worth clearing your calendar for.

"Play" doesn't do STRATA justice. It's an interactive performance set on multiple floors of a big Downtown building. (You probably won't know which building until you leave.)

The premise is that audience members have paid an entity called the Gate Corporation to undergo a sort of self-realization experience, called "STRATA," the goal of which is personal perfection. This is, publicity materials assure us, "Pittsburgh's First Refitnessing Center."

In practice, that means that from the moment you meet your first "agent," you become a character alongside the cast of some two dozen performers scattered throughout the venue, playing a variety of guides, mentors, therapists and more. It's largely scripted, but by necessity partly improvised.

With its choose-your-own adventure element, STRATA feels less like watching a conventional play and more like actually being in a movie.

Here's Michelle Pilecki's review for CP. Like this post, the review is short on specifics, both to avoid spoilers and because each visitor's experience will be notably different (even though you enter the venue with a partner, either chosen or assigned). My preview offered some background on the show's origins.

Like many funhouse rides, STRATA has its dark side — and we don't just mean the anti-STRATA campaign that shows up on the event's website, and which might or might not bleed over into your actual experience there.

Put another way: You can take STRATA at face value, but you'd be missing the sly undercurrent of critique of self-actualization seminars and the like. At the same time, don't be surprised if your "refitnessing" provokes at least a little introspection alongside the fun.

STRATA was devised by artists including Bricolage's Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon. Credit also the sharp work of lead writer Gab Cody; co-directors Carpenter, Dixon and Sam Turich; and the big cast and crew who made it all happen.

STRATA continues with 10 more performance dates through Sept. 1. Due to the nature of the show, patrons are limited in number. Tickets, meanwhile, are $40-60 — pricey by Bricolage standards, but after you see the show you're less likely to begrudge the charge than to wonder how they managed it all on a budget.

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