It’s a cool, dark night in Los Angeles, and I’m standing on the street corner with another individual, preparing to share my ride through the use of a Generic Rideshare App, as we wait for a signal that our driver, in a red ford focus, has arrived. In Annie Lesser’s latest immersive experience, F(ORD FOCUS), which is co-written by Drew Petriello, guests have the chance to participate in a rideshare experience that goes terribly wrong and makes participants question how quickly they are willing to point fingers at someone without knowing all the facts.
The execution of F(ORD FOCUS) is simple in nature but the effect that it has is long-lasting. It starts in a parking lot where we meet our driver Timothy, no wait, he said a different name… Actually, he seems confused as to who he is, and though that should have been my first sign that things weren’t going to go well, I brushed all negative thoughts out of my mind and climbed into the front seat. Meanwhile, my other companion slid into the back seat where she eventually found herself situated between a couple that was fighting. As our “drive” begins (and I’ll go into why that’s in quotations shortly), I chat with Timo…err whatever his name is, about his job and through his nervous stuttering I get the feeling that he’s a chill dude, even after he offers me some gum and I find some unusual items in his glove compartment. In the back of the car, all I hear is loud chatter from the two females but it’s hard to understand exactly what they are saying. Instead, I continue to focus on the driver and our conversation until he ends up slamming on the breaks and stalling the car. Our driver proceeds to explain that he is going to step out, that we shouldn’t go anywhere, and that he was going to call AAA. It’s at this point that the entire situation gets turned upside down and secrets are revealed and judgments are placed.
My favorite thing about this show is the subtleties used in conveying a message. With racism, the #MeToo movement, and social justice continue to gain exposure and traction, society is quick to place blame on whatever person is deemed “wrong”, which is easy when you are so far removed from the situation at hand. But what happens when it occurs with a friend you know, a lover, or even a stranger that you are in close proximity to? F(ORD FOCUS) does a phenomenal job of bringing up those questions in a 20 min experience that forces you to confront your reactions in real-time. In regards to this show specifically, we are seeing racial injustice and preconceived ideas thrown our way which makes for a rather interesting unfolding of truths. To be quite honest, F(ORD FOCUS) is one of, if not the only experience I’ve ever seen tackling an issue such as this in a way that was both believable and highly realistic without falling on being overly gratuitous.
The experience as a whole is rather intimate as it is only you, the other participant and the four actors, Mike Merchant, Bonnie He, Jinny Ryann, and Matt Vorce. What allowed this show to be so fantastic was how well it was executed from paper to reality. The actors really transformed themselves so as to follow certain stereotypical tropes, but not so much that they became caricatures of those stereotypes. They gave just enough information on what one should believe from how society has portrayed these people that participants are given a brief, but important, moment where they could easily waiver their opinion. Along with the superb acting, directing, and writing of F(ORD FOCUS), I have to give props for the design of the event. You don’t actually go for a drive, but with a little imagination, some smart flashlight work, and the sensation that you are actually in a moving car, it’s easy to paint a picture of driving down a dark road at night surrounded by people you don’t actually know. I also felt like F(ORD FOCUS) was genius in commenting on the use of social media and/or apps such as Rideshare apps where people, including myself, continuously get into cars with a complete stranger. We are so used to this way of life that we rarely stop to think that this person could do anything to us…. Which is a terrifying realization.
In all, I found that F(ORD FOCUS) was one of my favorite immersive experiences of 2019 as it left a huge impression on me and made me question the way in which we, as a society, handle situations that we don’t completely understand. Though I haven’t been able to attend all of Lesser’s “The ABC Project”, I’m glad I was at least able to catch this one as it was both darkly relevant yet hilariously poignant. Tickets for F(ORD FOCUS) are $45 (and can be purchased HERE) and if you can get yourself to one of the upcoming performances (Friday, March 15th, Wednesday, March 20th, Friday, March 22nd, and Saturday, March 23rd) do so! You aren’t going to see many shows like this so don’t miss out on one of the best, most thought-provoking experiences of the year.