BWW Review: Calling All Seekers: Find Your PSYCHIC UTOPIA at Hand2Mouth
I'm not interesting in taking spiritual journeys. I don't meditate or do yoga. And just the word mindfulness is enough to send me into a rage. So, you can imagine what I was thinking when I walked into New Expressive Works to see Hand2Mouth's newest creation, PSYCHIC UTOPIA. The space was transformed into what seemed like a meditation center, complete with New Age music, people wearing beige clothes and no shoes, and aromatherapy towels. Even my theatre companion was anxious about my reaction.
I tell you all this so you'll understand the gravity of this next bit. PSYCHIC UTOPIA is excellent. I loved the play, I loved the performance, and I loved the warm, connected-to-everyone feeling I've had ever since. This is the kind of immersive, visceral experience I go to the theatre for, and Hand2Mouth is uniquely talented at providing it.
A little background: Oregon has long been considered a sort of Eden, and people have traveled here from all over to find utopia. Because of this, our state holds the distinction of having the most communal living experiments in history (nearly 300) -- some have been race-based, some religious, but many were filled with people just seeking something that was missing from their lives. People came here to escape the rat race, to find connection with others, and to be free. The communes eventually broke up, but they left permanent impressions on the lives of those who'd participated.
For PSYCHIC UTOPIA, the folks at Hand2Mouth spoke with many of these people about what brought them here, their experiences in the communes, and how they live now. The show follows the stories of seven Seekers -- from anticipation, to arrival, to disillusionment, to their return to what most of us consider normal life.
But, of course, the show isn't really about them. It's about us -- who we are, what we're looking for, and the choices that shape our lives.
This is not a hypothetical exercise -- several times throughout the show, the performers kneel on cushions and ask members of the audience intense personal questions, like "What's a decision you've made to live a more beautiful life?"
This show will push you out of your comfort zone (one of the people I went with said she couldn't even see her comfort zone from where we were sitting). You should be ready to do a good deal of introspection and to share some things with others that perhaps you haven't even shared with yourself.
And you will be amply rewarded. For a brief 75 minutes, the theatre becomes its own little utopia. We all get to experience the joy of connection -- the ecstasy that the Seekers must have felt upon arriving in Oregon and finding their people. That's the feeling you'll take with you as you leave the theatre. Maybe we'll be the lucky ones, and the disillusionment won't ever come.
PSYCHIC UTOPIA runs through December 3. More info and tickets here.
Photo credit: Chelsea Petrakis