Photo by Frankie Steele

March 17, 2010

Theater: All the hotel is a stage

‘Heist’ takes the audience on one hell of an adventure

Heist
Part of the 34th Humana Festival of New American Plays. Continues through March 28 at 21c Museum Hotel, 700 W. Main St. Directed by Sean Daniels. For tickets or more info, call 584-1205 or visit www.actorstheatre.org.

Sean Daniels and Deborah Stein conceived and created “Heist” to be performed on location at 21c Museum Hotel with scenes at the St. Charles Building, Brown-Forman Corp. and The Museum Plaza Design and Sales Offices. And if you have the energy to keep up, it’s worth the run around.

The show actually begins before the show. Adam Pinney’s animated film and a background documentary introduce the cast. The characters then wander amidst the audience, remaining in character, and create mini-scenes that sometimes involve the audience. The show kicks off with the unveiling of an “almost priceless” piece of art. And then, living up to the title, that piece is stolen. Assigned to various characters, the audience is brought to different scenes in numerous locations, and as the show progresses, the collaboration of the criminals is revealed. At one point, the audience is taken across Main Street to watch scenes that reveal what occurred six months ago, six weeks ago, etc. The scenes are interesting and quick (and must be exhausting for the actors to repeat over and over again in one evening), but the tableaus themselves certainly aren’t as much fun as the chaos that swirls around the museum.

The entire cast should be commended for keeping people interested, keeping their groups in check, keeping the attention of a massive crowd, and keeping their energy up. The characters are definitely over the top, but they need to be in order to be noticed in a crowd. Clearly well rehearsed, they also have to be (and are) extremely sturdy when it comes to improvising. But most of all, it seems the performers are having a great time.

This is not a production that relies on a great revelation at the end. In fact, by the time the end rolls around and the information is all laid out, it doesn’t much matter. It’s the unexpected moment-to-moment that makes the show exciting. (For instance, I didn’t expect to see a show in the Humana Festival this year where I would be brought into the ladies room in the basement of 21c because a character had a fight with her boyfriend.) Basically, “Heist” revolves around a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that works.