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The Encounter - gives new meaning to the expression a captive audience

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Well, it sure is different. And eerie. And fascinating. And much too long. Perhaps as long as the mighty Amazon River where Mr. McBurney – who has co-conceived this oddity with Kirsty Housley has us imagine along with him as he tells the rambling philosophical tale of Mr. Loren McIntyre a photo journalist who in 1969 was kidnapped in the Amazon Jungle while on a photography expedition for National Geographic Magazine as we listen along on our very own headphones.

Testing right input. Testing left input. We are instructed to make sure we are correctly wired for takeoff into the surreal world of Simon McBurney who is the sole actor and director of this theatrical event that veers into pretension-land.

THE ENCOUNTER gives new meaning to the expression “a captive audience” – there is no intermission in this almost two hour opus and we have to wear the headgear to hear the production. Sound design by Gareth Fry & Pete Malkin.

And hear it we do – everything from the crunching of a cheez doodles bag, to a mosquito buzzing sweet nothings in our ear to the clicking of a camera to the deep resonant American voice of the captive diarist Mr. McIntyre alternating with Mr. McBurney’s higher somewhat accented tones.

It is indeed ironic that in 2014 the Tony Awards decided to no longer recognize sound design. And here it is as the star of the show.

THE ENCOUNTER is inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu and Mr. Mc Burney puts his heart and soul and feet and cell phone and water bottles into his bravura Shakespearean King Lear like performance. Robin Williams would have had a field day up there.

But the technological gimmick of headphones despite its brilliance overshadows the play as such or rather this live action in your ear audio transmission which after its initial novelty wears a bit tiresome.

It is difficult to care for the character. We feel alienated despite the closeness of the words in our ears. And it does ramble on. The set (Michael Levine) is bare bones – basically a desk and microphones and water bottles and a back drop that resembles the inside of a gigantic speaker where projections back up the physical and verbal descriptive travelogue.

Mr. McBurney passes this endurance test with flying colors.

But be forewarned he does not appear eight times a week. His standby Richard Katz appears at Tuesday evening and Wednesday matinee performances while Mr. McBurney understandably gears up for the others - at the Golden Theatre through Jan 8th 2017.

Photo: Joan Marcus

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