Back at the Peale, I feel like I need my own parking space! But in sincerity, what Submersive is trying to do here is remarkable. They are all in the same room, loosely connected but individual in scope. They are giving you theater in doses. Episodic doses that are part escape room, part interactive theater, and part illusion. They feel a bit off-putting, but they are immersive, inventive and a new way to look at theater as a whole. Submersive is notorious for pushing the envelope and trying new things- and I hope this working for them!
Cori Dioquino is fresh off a stint in the latest season of Daredevil and has decided to recant her roles as a member of the Submersive team with this latest episode. This one incorporates Buddhism, tattoos, reincarnation, and so much more. The premise is that a “being” enters the room and goes through some broken sentences and movements. As she progresses, she ultimately will serve you tea, and disrobe from her traditional outfit and become a bit more modern in the process. In Buddhism, a person is constantly working to obtain enlightenment. In our preliminary intake ceremony, we were shown ideas of what happens to the brain when trying to forge memory and obtain a higher plane of existence. The central question this time is: how does one forge a new identity? It is supposed to be asked in the wake of the great Baltimore fire, but is rooted in many things before and after that event.
If anything, this one was surreal. More so than the other episodes. Dioquino repeats her ceremony several times and gets us one step closer each time. In the end she sheds her skin and becomes anew, and we are excused to make sense of this, or find our own enlightenment. The documents in the debriefing room also speak of Bodhisattva, a form that has reached nirvana but chooses to stay behind and help others. That is what the “being” read as to me, but you are welcome to draw your own conclusions. Each has been a unique experience and what grounds this particular episode is Dioquino’s acting abilities. She is other-worldly, even when making connections to each person in the room individually. She gives us that tea (finally), and it is called the tea of forgetfulness. The story is that this tea is given to spirits to cleanse their old lives and send them back to earth.
“The Being” could also be Meng Po, from the Chinese realm of the dead. She serves Five Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness to each soul in Diyu, which gives them permanent amnesia. They are then recycled on earth with on previous knowledge. Lucky for you guys, I only drank a little of that! And although hazy, I recall some of my enchanting evening.
The other part that was unsettling was the projections and pictures in the scrap book. They had a definite air of mysticism and colonialism. There was an idea present, lurking beneath if you will, of suppression and oppression. Maybe that is why we need new identities? Because the lives of our past have been worth forgetting as move closer to a perfect state.
This one is ambiguous and ambitious. GO see for yourself if you are worthy or must remain on earth for a short time longer.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Go see one of these before they end! We named them a Best Bet because this is experimental theater at its finest. This particular one warps your mind and questions your place in the universe? Should you take a new identity? Do you need more tea? Do tattoos help you remember the past or write a forge a new future? Ask these questions and other deep existential quandaries before your time is out. And have some tea, after all, we could all use a fresh start sometimes. (I)
Running through Sunday 11/4 at The Peale Museum. Submersive Productions. Episodes are 30-40 minutes each and begin at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are available for ½ hour time slots throughout the evening.