You may look, but do not touch, says the dapper man at the door before taking a sip of his drink and ushering a group of audience members into the OBERON a theater and nightclub within the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.). From this point onward in AcousticaElectronica, no matter how close one gets to the performers, no matter how touchy-feely they are with the audience, there is an inescapable sense that everything is happening at a distance. Despite the fact that the performers sometimes weave through the crowded dance floor, the fourth wall is still firmly in place. Nevertheless, AcousticaElectronica is perhaps one of the most immersive theatrical performance events out there.
The show takes place in A.R.T.s second stage, so patrons can choose between two distinct ways of experiencing the performance: the full bar and table service or the dance floor. The party starts around 10:30 p.m. and continues on during the show itself the audience is completely free to dance on stage with the actors before the performance and off to the side once it starts. With house music blaring and people cheering, the energy is in a constant crescendo.
The atmosphere of AcousticaElectronica is carefully crafted. For example, the initial announcement asking the audience to avoid getting too close to the performers bears little resemblance to the strict no cellphone opening announcements that are standard at other theaters. Instead, this message is delivered in such a way that lets attendees know that they are in for a night full of all-inclusive enjoyment. Another instance of this built atmosphere is in the pre-show: performers dance on the stage and on the dance floor; they do tricks and slip notes to audience members in eerily exciting ways.
More so than its club environment, AcousticaElectronica itself provides a great night of entertainment. Even if the (nearly nonexistent) storyline is inscrutable at times, it is plain old fun to watch the really outstanding and, at times, mind-blowing performances. The dancing and the music are a hybrid of classical and contemporary influences; ballet preludes lead into hip-hop solos and other types of dance when it looks so cool, categorizing the various styles seems irrelevant.
The main characters, so to say, are from a variety of works. Swan Lake (1876) has a strong presence in the show; Carmen from the 1975 opera Carmen sings The Habanera, and a mime and an acrobat also make appearances. Additionally, three dancers, all made up to look perfectly identical, carry out various tasks on stage.
The fluidity of AcousticaElectronica is one of its best aspects. There is virtually no downtime between scenes because there is always something entertaining happening to distract wandering eyes as the next sequence is being set up.
While table seating is available, the dance floor is definitely the place to be for this performance. Even though the fourth wall is still in place and strictly enforced, audience members on the dance floor will feel as if they are a part of choreographed events taking place before their eyes. Table seating does offer some advantages, but, simply put, it is a lot more interesting to be on your feet.
AcousticaElectronica is very hard to categorize. It is a dance piece, but there is also opera; it feels like a nightclub, but the performers are the primary dancers; the music is classical, but it is also house. All of these elements have been seamlessly grafted into a magnificent medley. At its core, AcousticaElectronica is a piece of solid entertainment.
AcousticaElectronica will have one final performance at OBERON on March 28. Floor tickets are $25 and tables cost $55.