BWW Reviews: GAUNTLET from Wing-It Productions
As technology is fast approaching the time when we'll all have our own flying cars and robot servants (even though I thought we were supposed to be there by now) new and interesting tech also avails itself to theatrical productions. Sometimes it goes a little overboard and interferes with telling the story, but fortunately this is not the case with Wing-It's latest production, "Gauntlet". With their new interactive video game comedy, they have incorporated some new and exciting tech with their already brilliant improv skills to create one of the coolest shows I've seen.
In their completely unscripted show, the Wing-it ensemble (Phill Arensberg, Lars Foster-Jorgensen, Amalia Larson, Jeremy Richards, Graham Tordoff, Trent Walkiewicz, Elizabeth Westermann and Douglas Willott) present the story of two video gamers doing what they do, escaping from their real lives to immerse themselves into their video game alter egos. But as they play not only do we see and hear from our gamers but also see and hear from their real life avatars from the game. OK, so where does this cool tech come from you may ask. Well sometimes we see and hear the real life actors playing the avatars and characters from the game and sometimes our actors step to the side and using some very cool motion capture technology and a Kinect, the actors control the digital avatars within the game and perform through them. Created in partnership with Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon, this original video game follows our knights as they quest through a computer generated realm in order to … well … that's for the audience and improvers to decide.
Directors Adina Gillett and Andrew McMasters have combined with game designers Don Gillett, Gordon Jeffrey, Wai Kay Kong and Thom Och to create a whole new theatrical landscape for the performers to play on. And just as no two video game plays will be exactly the same, no two performances will be either as the actors come up with all new characters, situations and outcomes in and out of the realm of the game. But beyond normal improv, where the actors take the story is also dictated by the game as they are actually playing the game to decide who lives, dies, succeeds or fails.
The night I saw it teenagers Cameron and Tyler (Walkiewicz and Willott) dealt with feuding parents, over-bearing girlfriends and creepy teachers whom they brilliantly incorporated into the game world as well through their avatars Tenticulo and Barton (Foster-Jorgensen and Richards). But of course, that's just the night I saw it. Go a different night and you'll see all new stories, characters, quests and casting as they rotate who plays whom from night to night.
An entirely original and giddily fun night from the whacked out minds at Wing-It complete with a tech twist that will cause any nerd to completely geek out (I know I did). This is one not to miss not only as it's a hysterically fun show but also as the folks at Wing-It have taken theater beyond the stage and into a new realm. Let's just hope they don't run into Leeroy Jenkins in there.
"Gauntlet" performs at Wing-It Productions through May 18th. For tickets or information contact the Wing-It box office at 206-352-8291 or visit them online at www.wingitpresents.com.
Photo credit: Jeannine Clarke