By Kelly Luck
David Hanson likes to play with the concepts of performer and audience. Last year his "Bird in the Hand" took place simultaneously in multiple parts of Union Station. The audience, which was divided into three parts, each got a different piece of the overall story, depending on where they were. This year, he has expanded on the idea with "Audience".
Called a "verbal symphony", this show flips the audience and performers, starting with the audience on stage and four pairs of performers scattered around the perimeter in front row seats. We say "starting" because, once the play begins, audience members are free to roam from one pair to another and back again, moving as much or as little as they choose, as long as they don't actually interfere. This brings a whole unique dynamic to the performance, allowing the audience member to follow one thread, or swap back and forth between them, or follow one of the two ushers who move from pair to pair, offering advice and assistance.
Most of the conversations between the pairs cover discussion of life events, events which are apparently replaying before their eyes. It quickly becomes apparent just where these people are, and what must happen next. The conversations tend to be normal indoor volume level, with certain passages performed extra loud, allowing those who wish to do so to position themselves in the middle, missing the fine detail but picking up a sort of "tone poem" of various bits and pieces from the four threads.
This reviewer found the whole thing compelling as before but, as with "Bird in the Hand", there was no gainsaying the fact that there was no way to pick up the whole story--or stories--only one time around. It's the kind of play you strategize over, maybe going multiple times, or getting some friends together for a divide-and-conquer strategy.
Unfortunately, due to the scheduling of the show, all of its performances were over the initial weekend. This is a pity, as this reviewer found it a compelling work, and one it would have been nice for more people to experience.