SALT LAKE CITY — Through Yonder Window, the newest project produced by SONDERImmersive in Salt Lake City, is an interactive theatrical experience developed with Covid-19 in mind. With artistic direction and choreography by Graham Brown, the production follows loosely the story of Romeo and Juliet, though with a different setting, where masks are worn, touch is forbidden, and conflict is high.
When I arrived, I was guided to a specific spot to park, and the staff made sure I could see well around me. Audience members receive a QR code to scan so that they can have a guide to understanding more of the events that are happening in the play and can be prepared to fully be included in the show.
The sound was broadcast through a radio station, bringing me back to the days of drive-in movies. Most of the the narrative was by Tyler Fox, whose voice had a soothing yet intriguing nature as he guided the audience through the excitement that slowly turned tragedy in Verona. There was a little additional voiceover of Romeo (voiced by Jacob Barid) and Tybalt (voiced by Emma Sargent) that added some depth to the sound. A nice component was the superb original music composed by Wachira Waigwa-Stone. The sound was perhaps one of the main highlights of this production, adding so much to the aesthetic.
Through Yonder Window also featured amazing movement and choreography. Brown, with his movement coach and scenographer Joseph Wheeler, crafted scenes with beautiful, sometimes intense movement that seemed almost like a ballet more than a play. The narrative focus of the dialogue gave more credence to this imagery, and I found myself lost in a lot of the movement, especially in scenes with Juliet (played by Nadia Sine), and Romeo (played by Ed Corvera), as well as and Nurse Maria (played by Mara Lefler). Fox as Friar Lawrence had an especially excellent way of connecting with the audience, which seemed extraordinary with the barriers of vehicles. At one moment I felt him connect to my husband and myself through piercing eyes that left a haunting impression.
A show set in a parking lot has some inherent flaws, such as not being able to see all the action at one time. Upon arrival, the announcements warned of this, and at the end the audience is encouraged to consider attending again, because parking in a difference spot may result in seeing an entirely different show. I am not sure I completely agree, though I do think one would get different aspects of the show. I think the choices of use of space were mostly well planned, though a few scenes done behind the cars seemed to be too distant for some audience members. In other scenes, some people had to turn their heads all the way around, with others strained to see above the cars parked in front of them.
Overall, the view was fine and the intriguing use of space in a parking lot, especially when social distancing by cast and audience is necessary, was creative and a fun way to keep theatre alive. The hour-long production was good for the time and venue, and the work that the cast did to include the audience was impressive. One moment with Romeo and Juliet and a car after their wedding was my particular favorite, so if you attend, I hope you get to be that car. I was not, and I was a bit jealous.
Retelling the events of Romeo and Juliet is nothing new, and I did enjoy some of the nuances that the writing team of Graham Brown, Rick Curtiss, and Catherine Mortimer employed for Through Yonder Window. It spawned an interesting conversation after the show, and pondering about love, life, loss, and even the restrictions during our own time of tragedy and change. However, the show also made me wonder what it would have been like to see an entirely different story in the same venue and format. My hope is that SONDERImmersive would consider another experience similar to this with a new storytelling experience, something to counter the retelling of a story that has been heard so many times before.