SALT LAKE CITY — Hindsight, the latest production from the Sackerson, has been advertised as “an immersive walking play” where the audience “follows two lovers falling in and out of love weaving through the scenic backdrop of downtown SLC.” The play, written by local playwright Morag Shepherd, aptly named for the fact that it is a backwards look at the events of a love story from the end to the beginning. The audience follows the path of Lorraine (played by McKenzie Steele Foster) as she looks back in hindsight at the events that lead to her falling in and out of love with both Chase (played by Tyler Fox) and Ford (played by Conner Nelis Johnson).
The true star of this show is the vision of director Alex Ungerman that came to life on the city streets of Salt Lake. Initially the audience, no more than six people per performance, is handed headphones and given instructions on how to follow the evenings events. My fitbit logged about 2000 steps during this journey, so it was not a show that allows audience members to sit back and relax. After getting over the initial awkward feelings of getting on a bus and watching a play while people wondered what crazy group we were, the genius of this experience became apparent to me.
Seeing Hindsight is like watching a movie and also being a part of the action. Hindsight gave the audience the opportunity to transport themselves into the experience of the play. As a critic, I have found many shows that bring me close to the world they are trying to portray, but on Saturday, as I sat in a local pizza joint watching the actors discuss their relationship, everything from the smell of the pizza to the onlookers wondering what the argument was about added to the authenticity of the moment.
Ungerman and the production team have a keen eye for what might look interesting to the immersive audience. One of my favorite scenes was just inside a small restaurant, where the audience stood just outside, viewing through the window the movements and hearing the conversation through the headsets. The visuals were impressive and the feeling of been in the moment and yet slightly detached was fascinating to me. Additionally, riding the train, bus, and watching the couples as they walked through the city streets built an impressive experience that had me looking at the city I have worked in for much of my career with a whole new eye and outlook.
Foster, as Lorraine, kept focus throughout significant distractions on the streets, and it is a supremely realistic portrayal of a person confused about the best path relationships should take. Moving the action to a tangible location helped bring a sense of authenticity to the story that would be hard to replicate in any other way. Fox and Johnson also held strong characters as they performed, and left me feeling like I was eavesdropping on several private conversations rather than witnessing a production.
Shepherd’s story also left me with a lot to ponder and consider. This show is one that is best discovered through experience, rather than reading a plot synopsis in a review. A poignant line in the script discussed how flowers grow, burst into color, and then die. While that can be seen as a sobering thought, I also felt that it is a reminder to take advantages of life’s opportunities because beauty can be fleeting and should be enjoyed in the moment. This is what Hindsight brought to me: a beauty that could only be enjoyed in that setting and the exact experiences that are unique to each performance.
Before attending the show the audience is told to wear good shoes and bring a bottle of water, something I echo as a wise decision. I also encourage letting go of any expectations or fears of being looked at strangely, and allowing yourself to really fall into the story. If you can find the time to make it to a performance of Hindsight, it is an artistic experience unlike any other I have seen. I hope that Sackerson continues to find new and innovative ways to tell stories for audiences in unique and immersive settings.
Full disclosure: One of the producers of this production (Dave Mortensen) is the founder of Utah Theatre Bloggers Association and a member of its board of directors. As a board member he is in charge solely of the technical functioning of the web site. Mr. Mortensen had no involvement with the writing or editing of this piece. Honest criticism was encouraged.
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