A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a pizza party and meet up with some new friends to discuss our lives and catch up. Everything on the surface seemed fine, there was light chatter, snacks, discussions on books and our jobs, and laughter which filled the air. However, there was a noticeable discomfort from our host, Victoria, when an old friend of hers named Ely arrived with his new girlfriend, Justine. From that moment on, the attending guests get swept up into the narrative of who Justine is and the horrifying circumstance surrounding her story.

CAPTIVATED is the latest show from Erik Blair and Thea Rivera of They Played Productions and their first fully immersive event that will kick off a three part series. The following synopsis will give you a taste of what CAPTIVATED entails (per their press release):

“It’s been a while since you had pizza and drinks with your friend Victoria, so you’re excited that she’s invited you to hang out tonight!

She’s promised an intimate evening of just a few people at her place, including her friend since childhood, Ely, and his new girlfriend. Although you’ve never met either of them, Victoria promises they’re perfectly wonderful people. 

Then, of course, you get there. And you decide to look a little deeper…”

CAPTIVATED reminded me of a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. In order for the performances to truly work, the attending guests must help move the story along whether through a group setting or private one-on-one conversations with the actors. Luckily for me, I was in a group with people who had experience with immersive theater and were eager to talk about all the events that were unfolding.

What I loved most about this experience was I literally had no idea what I was walking into. Yes, there were pizza and drinks served, I knew that much. I also knew that I would be meeting my host, Victoria, who I already had an “established” friendship with. The rest of my group, which totaled 5 people, were guests that I had not met prior, but through the hour long experience we all grew a little bit closer. Some of us were asked to leave the apartment to go on a specific mission, while others were taken aside for one-on-one conversations. I found myself spending an ample amount of time with both Justine and Victoria for two very different, but important, reason.

I don’t want to give anything away, but what I can tell you is that there is something wrong with Justine’s circumstances. There were moments during the performance where I wanted save her from the nightmare that she found herself in, but then I had to remind myself this wasn’t real life and that I needed to calm down. The show insinuates the possibility of mental and emotional abuse towards the main character, which was a little bit of a trigger for me due to past experiences in my life, which is also why I think I felt so connected to what was unfolding. When the show came to an abrupt end, I actually found myself partly relieved but also, desperately wanting to know more. Luckily, I won’t have to wait to much longer as this was part 1 of 3 and Justine’s story is far from over.

I know I’ve been relatively vague about the overall experience but it’s because I really feel like They Played Productions has something incredibly special with CAPTIVATED that all of you should experience. I was moved by the performances and the fact that it ended on a cliff hanger only made me want more. As someone who has experienced a large portion of immersive events, I truly believed that this was one of the more unique and personal events that I have done as of recently. Even though it’s been two weeks since my time with Victoria and Justine, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and to me, that’s a fantastic sign of a show done well.

For more information on CAPTIVATED, or to purchase tickets, visit captivatedone.bpt.me.

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