A picture that captures one paragraph of a classic piece of literature? An instruction to search those books for missing words or phrases just out of view? An audio download that contains a stilted series of numbers being repeated over and over? All of these things compromised the first few steps of an intriguing three hour journey that many people chose to undertake this past weekend. ALONE: REFLECTION hit town, and it was yet another entry in an increasingly intriguing mix of theater event, social experiment and performance art.
The clues mentioned above came through social media and if you paid attention and did a little research, you unlocked a phrase gathered from three different sources. During the evening, that phrase unlocked instructions and interactions which at first seemed random, but was clearly leading somewhere.
This journey was the third show out of a series of four. Each show is based on a theme involving the properties of light. The previous two entries titled Diffusion and Refraction featured single locations you moved through, exploring interactive scenes with a cast mixing in with other patrons as the shows unfolded. REFLECTION took a turn toward a more adventurous feeling, sending patrons on a journey through several locations that sometimes needed to be learned by working out puzzles and clues provided during the show.
Russell: REFLECTION is, so far in this series, the most successful ALONE show of the year for me. This was a fine mixture of odd and goofy and touching and slightly sinister. That shifting tone left me with plenty to ponder on the way home. I had very mixed feelings about the two previous entries in the series, feeling they both lacked much of an emotional impact.
Mike: Honestly, I was not looking forward to this AT ALL. I was just in a state of mind where I didn’t want to do anything. I was out of town for the weekend and spent 4+ hours driving home. I got home, unpacked, and had no time to rest or relax before I had to leave again. I kept thinking I was going to skip it based on the information we were given (we would have to walk and drive around), but because it’s Alone, and their good unpredictability, I decided to push through and do it…and I’m so glad I did! To mimic Russell’s opinion, I also thought this was the best one of the series so far. As soon as I spotted the infamous white neon triangle, my tiredness, sluggishness, and my “I just want to be lazy” attitude went away.
Russell: Right from the beginning, the theme of this entry was clear – what we put into the world is reflected back toward us. Whether it be in the form of someone mimicking us or someone presenting us with a challenge to compare our existence to that of another living creature, this show was often point blank in its purpose – get us to think about who we are in this life and how big is the playing field we inhabit?
Mike: Knowing that the theme was “Reflection”, I wondered how they would portray that. There’s so many different ways to approach a theme like this. The first thing that comes to mind is “Mirrors”, but Alone is too savvy for that. I’m happy to say they did not rely on mirrors at all. No mirrors, that I could see/find, were in REFLECTION. Instead of going the easy and common route, they chose to make metaphors, but at the same time had some interesting immersive moments going on between you and the actors/actresses. One scene in particular that sticks out to me was I was in a large room watching a projection and out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone standing about 10 feet away. I had an itch on my neck, and that’s when I noticed that this person was doing what I was doing…she was “Reflecting” me. I decided to have fun with this. I channeled my inner Alone Unicorn and started dancing a bit and she followed and kept up. She was dancing better than I was and seemed to be able to pop and lock! In scenes like that, I always wonder how people react. Do they have fun with it like I did? Do they freak out and just stand still? Do they just not care? Scenes like that are why I love immersive pieces so much. There’s interaction and a conversation is had without words.
Russell: Personally, I was so entranced by the visuals on the screen it took me a while to engage the character Mike is talking about. It was a fumbling encounter for me, not as fun as Mike’s sounds, but it did start the show off we me sharing a good laugh with this woman as I awkwardly figured out what was going on. The physical playfulness of that scene actually shifted me to a more playful mood than I started with, and I’m glad it did. Going to an event, haunt or theatrical production may seem like a passive experience to some, but if you approach ALONE with such passivity, I am not sure you will walk away with much food for thought. Two encounters during the evening truly made attempts to strike at the audience’s personal values. Early on, we were asked to defend the safest choices we make in life and examine how adverse we are to taking risks. Later, a woman who seemed to read our palm was actually reading our reaction to her comments on how we are always alone in this world, but never far from being part of some group. These encounters ranged from a casual conversation among friends at a table, to an intimate hand-holding session in a bar.
Mike: I agree with Russell. If you go to Alone with a “haunted house” mentality, (as in, I want to walk through, see things, be entertained, and walk out), you probably won’t enjoy it as much since so much of the show depends on you and your interactions. If you go to Alone with an open mind, ready to have fun, play with what you’re given, and engage in the show, you will have a blast. The encounters Russell mentioned is what sets Alone apart from other events going on. The fact that you’re not sure whether or not the person looking at you or speaking to you is part of the show makes the show that much more entertaining. It’s definitely a real world/real life experience within those scenes and you almost forget that you’re a part of something bigger. There were a couple times throughout the night when a stranger asked me a question or started talking to me and didn’t realize they were part of the show until near the end of the conversation and then there was an “OHHHHH!!!!” moment in my mind and went to the next part of my journey.
Russell: The effective use of the Los Angeles landscape enhanced the feeling of going on an actual journey during the course of the night. At one point, I found myself recalling days when I was in college and weekend nights would sometimes develop into an odd series of encounters with friends and strangers, moving from restaurant to bar to movie theater to the local mall. REFLECTIONS took that sort of meandering course. Each encounter varied in length and intensity based on what was happening in the immediate area surrounding you and the character you happened upon.
Mike: The landscape, as well as the soundtrack (Alone had you download a playlist of 8 songs to play along as you went from place to place), combined to make a great visual and audio representation of what you were doing. Some of the songs had words, but most were more background type music. Think of when you’re watching a movie and there’s just music playing while the characters are driving or walking along. It gives you a certain feel. So when you’re walking in downtown Los Angeles and you see AND hear the grittiness. Combine that with the smells of Los Angeles and that entire experience is just…perfect.
Russell: I particularly liked a walk through a tunnel featuring a tense piece of music. It was a good combination of elements that allowed me to create my own narrative for a relatively unstructured part of the show. Not all of this occurred gracefully, there were some awkward moments within the show. One long stretch of time simply had us meet someone who then directed us to walk to a new street corner. At least four of these encounters were completely lacking in any flavor or tone. With such an ambitious show where patrons are being encouraged to wander and explore – these moments of crowd control stuck out, NOT as problems but as huge missed opportunities. Talking with my friends afterwards, we all felt a few of these encounters had great potential for fun interaction… only to discover that the person’s only purpose was to tell us to “turn right” or “turn left.” Realizing we were about to encounter another character would create a sense of excitement in each of us only to be followed by a simple exchange of a few words. In the city scape we were maneuvering through, at times I was hoping for something a little more foreboding to develop since we seemed, at times, alone and vulnerable.
Mike: This wasn’t a big deal for me. Luckily, I know DTLA fairly well, but to someone who is unfamiliar, I think these people were needed. I feel like they were more of “ok, you’re still on the right path, don’t worry” type of checkpoints, rather than characters. I would think Alone doesn’t want their guests to get too confused and get lost in DTLA, so I’m glad these people were there. Even though there wasn’t a lot of interaction compared to other scenes, the secretive, almost code like, interaction was still great.
Russell: I see Mike’s point, it just seemed to me encountering these characters could have blurred the lines between reality and show even further. Theater as real life? Perhaps. And sometimes, life is enjoyable and fun and sometimes it just isn’t that interesting. REFLECTIONS created that sort of environment and offered a similar range of emotions. That’s not necessarily a negative comment. I commend them for being so ambitious and willing to create truly odd situations for a person to explore. If this life isn’t about exploration, than why are we here?
Mike: The first thought that came to mind was “Ambitious” when I started to hear about what the night would be about; 1-3 hours, codes, etc. There were A LOT of dots that needed to be connected and for someone to be able to pull this off, without incident, is pretty amazing. Alone is always pushing the boundaries when it comes to things like this. There are so many moving parts, locations, people, etc. It seems to be a logistical nightmare, yet they keep doing it…and if they keep doing it, I’m going to keep doing it!
Russell: Perhaps the final scene summed that up best for me, personally. Encountering a couple in a dimly lit stairwell, I found myself being given a cookie, and that small treat inspired an odd, charming encounter with a couple who welcomed me into their world, questioned me, held me tight and then encouraged me to join them in doing so with the next patron to arrive. We all came together in a silly and wonderfully endearing hug. When I left, I actually felt a tinge of sadness that I did not know more about them. Much like friendly people you might meet on some weekend excursion. The encounter may be brief and even slightly confusing, but there is definite value in the fact that it happened. They are there, they touch your heart a bit and then you both move on.
Mike: The last interaction caught me by such a surprise. It was GREAT. The cookies were a welcome surprise. My first thought was “Sweet, they want us to regain the calories we lost from walking around”. It was also nice to end with a “thank you”. I’m so used to haunts that terrify you and just kick you out, so for the 2 people in the last scene saying that meant a lot to me, even if it was part of the show. It’s little things like that I really notice and appreciate within these experiences. I was actually sad walking out through the door. Even though it took a little less than 3 hours, I kept thinking on how quick it went. That’s the power of keeping your mind busy with conversations, sounds, sights, and puzzles.
You have one more chance to Unweave the Rainbow with The Alone Experience. Their final part of the journey ends in October with the Index of Absorption.
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