Anthony J. Piccione
- OnStage Contributing Critic
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to speak to a few of the people involved with “the Ultimate Viewing Experience” aka “UVX”, a theatrical show that had billed itself as an “intermersive” blend of live theatre and cinema. Since then, there had been a few unfortunate delays to the opening of this event due to technical reasons, which prevented me from reviewing it when I was initially planning to. However, I finally had the chance to check out this event this past Thursday, and while I enjoyed much of it, I admit it wasn’t entirely what I expected.
While the event billed itself as a blend of theatre and film, that description is only partially accurate. Admittedly, perhaps this should have been more obvious to be, but the marketing for the show – including the marketing I was presented with upon invitation to the show – was, in fact, part of the show itself. In other words, the whole premise of the show is based around the characters presenting such a bold, visionary viewing experience like the one being described in the marketing, only to have it turn out to be a fairly silly experience, with much of it clearly part of the entertainment value.
While cinematic elements certainly play a major role – as do various lighting, sound and other visual effects –the independent film made specifically for this event is primarily a backdrop for the actual show, which is primarily a comedic, sci-fi tale revolving around the entire concept of a theatrical experience that makes film interactive, and the “buddies” working for the “Luxury Universal Experience corporation” who make it happen. Over the course of this immersive show, audience members essentially become part of the show, as they are being interacted with by the live performers who go take us through the “viewing experience”, some of which is clearly staged and planned out, but not all of it, as a clear portion is selected by the audience.
The “buddies” in the show – who spent much of their time interacting directly with audience members – were a big highlight for me. I admit that on that day, I was particularly prepared to be so involved with a theatrical performance – some of which, on their part, feels at least partially improvised – myself. They were a surprisingly joyful aspect of the show, and they all play a critical role in making the audience enjoy this show and in changing aspect of the show to, as they might put it, their “viewing pleasure”.
I also quite enjoyed the way in which technology was incorporated into the performance. Throughout the show, audience members are able to look up on a separate screen and take a look at options that appear which change the ambiance and background of the film, and occasionally some elements, and then vote on which option they’d like to see by using their phone. Some of my personal favorite changes that occurred include the random additions of Chinese subtitles, a giant mustache on screen, and changing the entire film into a space opera, along with some of the other ones that occur toward the end, when the film suddenly stops, and the last few minutes are enacted live by the actors in the form of an opera.
All in all, UVX is essentially a comedic, 1980s-inspired extravaganza, and generally speaking, a very high-energy and fun-filled show that is indeed worth checking out, if you’re looking for a good time. Who knows? Maybe your experience will be different from mine, in that the audience members could vote to make different changes along the way…
“UVX” runs at the Abrons Arts Center from October 17th to November 5th. For more information, please visit www.luxuryuniversalexperience.com.