Seen on: Saturday, 10/15/21.
My grade: B
Plot and BackgroundA return engagement of Flying Leap LLC's immersive audio journey about Jane's 40-year crisis during a pandemic.
What I Knew BeforehandI knew it was immersive, audio, and choose-your-own-adventure. Beyond that I tried to avoid reading as much as possible, for my first return to immersive theater since the shutdown.
Preface: I'm going to avoid major spoilers here, since the location of Assemble is part of the secret and the surprise. The production (performance? experience?) is an interesting idea, simultaneously isolatingly private and completely exposed. It's a promenade experience, with the audience on their feet and moving. Each audience timeslot has only four attendees (each set of four staggered at twenty-minute intervals across a two-hour span), with audience members clutching their mobile, earbuds in. You are alone. You are surrounded by people. You are surrounded by people who don't realize you're having an experience. You are surrounded by people having their own experience. No one is looking at you but you're in everyone's way. And -- yes, that's someone else in your timeslot, sharing a conspiratorial grin before returning their attention to their phone.* As you follow Jane on her journey, making choices in the app, reliving the tedium of isolation at home and the anxiety of growing older without hitting the milestones everyone told you to hit, you and Jane both begin to realize your choices were wrested from you the moment you hit play.
Parts of this experience worked very well for me, immersion-wise. I felt enveloped in the moment, in the choices, in the world being tapestried around me. But too often I was pulled out, either for fear of being in the way of someone who didn't realize they were part of the show, or trying not to overlap too heavily with my fellow time-slotters, or--frankly--window shopping. I got lost a few times. I couldn't do precisely what the app requested, for reasons outside my control. And pretending you're doing a thing for an audience of zero, as you wait for the next step to prompt, is its own weird dissociation. Especially when I wouldn't go with option A, B, or C at times.
That being said, I like the bones of this experience very much, and wouldn't mind seeing what comes next from this group. Maybe next time I can latch into the story better, and disappear for a few hours into somewhere else (though traveling between Brooklyn and Queens on a weekend is rough y'all).