The Ascendants at Bricolage Productions | Theater Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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The Ascendants at Bricolage Productions 

It’s immersive theater in lunch-hour portions

Ever since 2012’s STRATA — an epic undertaking that occupied most of a Downtown building and employed a cast, crew and creative team of dozens — Bricolage Production Company has made a cottage industry of immersive theater. These shows putting audience members “into the play” have mostly been full-length affairs: OjO, the co-production Saints Tour — Braddock, even the escape room Enter the Imaginarium. But Bricolage has also been experimenting with shorter, more-or-less-invitation-only productions called Immersive Encounters.

The first of these to be open to the public is The Ascendants, a 25-minute immersive from much of the creative team behind STRATA, including co-creators Jeffrey Carpenter, Tami Dixon and Sam Turich and lead writer Gab Cody.

Because the element of surprise is crucial to enjoying the show, I can’t provide too much detail; in fact, ticket-buyers won’t even learn where to report Downtown until 24 hours before showtime. But it’s fair to say that while Ascendants takes viewers on a journey, it’s less like STRATA (which felt like being in movie) and more like 2014’s OjO, in which visitors were blindfolded and led around Downtown streets and carefully arranged indoor spaces to suggest the experiences of sight-impaired folks.

Ascendants is also solitary; even if you buy tickets in groups (of up to four), you’ll have the experience alone. The show provides complete immersion through a combination of sensory deprivation and allusiveness that has the feeling of lucid dreaming in an exploration of one’s feelings about mortality. (Note: While you do have to sign a release form, the experience is completely safe.) While there are two “dream hosts” (played by Andrea Kozia and Michael Brewer), you’ll spend the most quality time with the painstakingly crafted sound design, by Sarah Pickett, Chris Evans and David Gotwald.

Theatrically, Ascendants is interesting because Bricolage uses technology to direct your attention more precisely than any conventional stage director (or even a close-up-happy film director) ever could.

Ascendants is short enough to be enjoyed during a lunch hour, with mid-day performances available for just that purpose. Multiple showings are scheduled daily Wednesdays through Sundays through May 14.

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