Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Double Freakquency

Studio Theatre—Stage 4

Remaining Performances:

Sunday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, July 19, 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 24, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 27, 8:30 p.m.

They say: "Two channels, one room. Audio is delivered through wireless two-channel headphones. Dialogue, sound effects, music – you choose what you want to hear. And get ready to debrief with your friends: No two individual show experiences are the same."

Ben's Takes:

A

 

 

 

Entering into Studio Theater's upstairs black box     space  for AVAdventure ProductionDouble Freakquency, I,  along with every other audience member, am handed  a set of padded black headphones and given  instructions by some friendly and clear stage  managers for how to use my assisted listening device.  No, this is not the Sunday matinee and I am not a  senior citizen or otherwise hard of hearing. These  headphones are the tool that will propel me through  the next 45 minutes of "interactive audio theater" in a  production that will both test my sanity and tease my  brain.

The basic gist: Double Freakquency is the story of ex-  roommates Renee (Caitlin Carbone) and Alex  (Summer McCarley) who now live in neighboring  apartments separated only by perhaps the thinnest  walls ever constructed. Alex hasn't really moved on  from being kicked out by Renee, who reportedly  "needed her space," and is mortified when Renee picks  up a new roommate, TJ (Mauricio Marces).  Along  the way the young women engage in a series of  extraordinarily passive-aggressive conversations and  schemes, Alex picks up a roommate of her own, the  down-on-his-luck and out-of-work Doug (Josh  Blubaugh), and things eventually become more  actively aggressive.  Pretty straightforward, no?

No.

Remember those headphones? They are playing two  very different channels of audio which you select  individually throughout the show to decide what you  hear and when.  Most commonly you choose which  side of the wall to listen from, still hearing muffled  pieces of conversation from across the way, but  sometimes this means making a difficult choice  between listening to the inner monologue of a  character on one channel while their actual  conversation is on the other. Another time it's a smart  juxtaposition of ads for anti-depressants and surly  rejections from HR types versus desperate resume-  pushing. In the show's best and most clever moments,  there are two scenes inhabiting the same space and  you decide which you will hear and which you will  just observe.

The whole thing is rather head-spinning, but if it  sounds like a gimmick, think again. We are in the  extraordinarily capable hands of co-writers and  directors Adam Stackhouse and Liz Sykes. It took  me several minutes to set aside my desire to know  every single thing that was going on, stop constantly  clicking my channels back-and-forth, and trust the  show to reveal itself to me, and I was not led  astray. Stackhouse and Sykes keep the story simple  and repetitive, which proves an asset.  The story  remains engaging and never gets swallowed by the  high concept. Instead, the dual-channel writing  functions as a clear metaphor for the ways we interact  with each other, often hearing only what we choose to  hear.

Also helping keep things straight are the crystal-clear  pantomimes of the four actors.  All of the material  piped in through the headphones is prerecorded, with  the actors lip-syncing. Thus, their performance  becomes more analogous to voice-acting in animation  than traditional stage acting. Gestures and facial  expressions are clear enough to convey meaning, even  when you're not listening to their vocal channel, but  never go over the top. Carbone and McCarley are  particularly noteworthy for their gamely miming of  simultaneous dialogue and quick tonal shifts.

Double Freakquency is the perfect show for Capital  Fringe, the kind of daring vision that pushes the  boundaries of theater and would struggle mightily to  find a producer at any traditional theater but which  expands the possibilities of what can happen on stage  while still telling a smashing story.  The magic of  theater is that no two shows are ever truly the same,  but with Double Freakquency, even people viewing the  same show have vastly different experiences.  The  only regret I have is that they don't do the whole thing  twice back-to-back to give me a chance to try again to  see what I missed.

B

 

OK, Ben.  This is your first review. Don't screw it up.

Sure seem to be a lot of people in this here lobby.

Oh...they're taking a break from Rocky Horror.  Their   costumes suck!

This elevator should take me to the right place.

...

Damn this is a slow elevator. OK, here we are...fourth    floor!

My ticket?! Shit! Foiled already.

Take the stairs to the third floor and try again?           Absolutely, sir.

 

Alright, let's test these channels out.

Sweet mashup on channel B!

 

 

Like Office Space!

 

 

 

Kudos to the sound mixer.  Had to turn my headphones off briefly to make sure the atmospheric noise wasn't coming from the stage.

 

 

 

 

 

OK, I'm on a hair trigger here. Slow down, Ben. You're   making me spin. Channel A OR B, buddy! Choose one.

 

 

 

 

Ooh...the off button.

Tee-hee.  This is strange.  Although I can vaguely       hear  my neighbor's channel.

OK...long enough.  I'm stressing trying to figure out     what's happening.

 

 

 

OK, got it.

 

 

 

 

Like, you know how Shakespeare always repeats     himself because people would come late and so you could still be caught up even if you missed part of the show?  Or didn't understand what the hell was going on because of that damn iambic pentameter and needed to hear it 10 times!?

 

 

 

Who does Alex look like?

...

 

...

 

AMY POEHLER!

 

 

 

Remember that video cube in Adam's Morgan a couple   of years ago? That thing was sweet.

 

 

Like the blind men and the elephant.

 

 


See it if: You're turned on by the idea of controlling how you experience a theatrical performance.

Skip it if: You truly can't function in a theater without turning your cell phone off completely (the phone frequencies mess with the wireless transmission and cause static—get 'em OFF!)

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