Vigilance Theater Group brings death to life with Welcome to Moonside | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Vigilance Theater Group brings death to life with Welcome to Moonside

click to enlarge Welcome to Moonside  - PHOTO: VIGILANCE THEATER GROUP
Photo: Vigilance Theater Group
Welcome to Moonside
To an outsider, immersive theater can be quite confusing. It might feel like an escape room with actors, or an unsolvable riddle hidden inside a haunted house. At least that’s how it felt taking part in the Vigilance Theater Group’s original production Welcome to Moonside at the former Lava Lounge.

Written by Vigilance Theater Group co-founder Sean Collier, the show kicks off with two young women dressed in matching dresses with different colored ribbons, gliding through the lobby, referring to the guests as “humans” and asking them questions about life on Earth. The audience soon learns that these two characters are named Dawn (Saige Smith) and Dusk (Anna Failla). Dawn and Dusk guide the guests from the lobby into a dark room where the show will take place. It’s decorated with lights, alcoves, benches, and a white throne elevated at the front of the room. This is Moonside.

In Moonside, the audience is introduced to seven other characters, all with witchy qualities to them. As the show goes on, it seems that Moonside is a kingdom for the spirits of deceased humans. There is a new spirit in Moonside, her name is Never (Ashley McKinney), and after her appearance, strange disturbances take over the spooky community.

One character that helps to create the eerie atmosphere of the show is the queen of Moonside, Tempo (Hazel Leroy). The character is reminiscent of Maleficent — a queen, dressed in all dark colors, asserting her dominance at every opportunity, constantly declaring that she is the true antagonist of the story.

As disappearances and arguments occur in Moonside, the audience works with the characters to fix the problems. The catch is that the spirits of Moonside don’t have very strong memories, and need the humans to help them remember their past lives.

The show is vastly female-driven, with all of the main characters played by women. In addition to tackling female representation, Welcome to Moonside finds a way to incorporate queerness into the show, in a subtle, but seamless way. When one spirit remembers her life on Earth, she reveals she felt most alive when a girl kissed her. It’s not a bells-and-whistles coming out moment, and the word “gay” isn’t even used. All the audience hears is a description of love and happiness, which is what the spirits need to remember to solve the problems of the show.

The cast is the biggest highlight of Welcome to Moonside. The actresses did an incredible job of holding conversations with the audience members without breaking character. The bond of the strong female protagonists was undeniable, something the audience could see went beyond the characters and their lines, whether scripted or improvised.

Welcome to Moonside is an empowering, intriguing production worth checking out, especially for those who love mystery and spooky stories.

Welcome to Moonside opens on Sun. Aug. 22 and runs through Sun. Sept. 8. 2204 E. Carson St., South Side. $50.

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