Hollywood Fringe Festival Review: THE WITNESSING

As a first-timer to Fringe Festival, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had heard from many Fringe veterans that this year’s selection of immersive entertainment was more plentiful. It seemed that more theatre groups were taking the chance to experiment with the particular genre of performance. THE WITNESSING is one such immersive theatre experience this year at Fringe and is a great starting point for beginners to the world of immersion.

The show itself is delivered to us via a lecture by the presumably all-knowing Dr. Daugherty, played by Jason Field, with the help of his browbeaten assistant, Alex, played by Galen Howard. The subject of the lecture? The haunting that took place in the Davidson home back in 2010. We got the opportunity throughout the course of the lecture to gaze at important photos, listen to police recordings and interviews, and feel the paranoia build within us until the lecture’s end.

Prior to the lecture, we were able to take a look at all of the artifacts that had been accumulated by the Doctor and his poor assistant during the investigation. This connected to what I thought was the most satisfying component of the show, which was being able to see how the artifacts related to individual occurrences throughout the course of their investigation.

Of course, you can’t have a show tackling a haunting case without something spooky happening. Keep your eyes peeled. There are really small moments that you might miss if you aren’t paying close attention.

For some, the humor interwoven within the show’s dialogue might be too over-the-top. You can tell that Dr. Daugherty and Alex are strong personalities, each competing with one another in dominance. While Dr. Daugherty is more serious and sarcastic in his humor, Alex is more quirky. This is a casual observation, but I think how people respond to the humor will be based off of their own preferences.

However, the humor is not the centerpiece of the show. The tension is. This can be seen as more strange shenanigans happen throughout the course of THE WITNESSING. But, most importantly, I think we can observe this in Galen Howard’s Alex. We are introduced to him as being someone Dr. Daugherty doesn’t take too seriously. The audience can read how Dr. Daugherty’s treatment frustrates Alex and his performance is ultimately what helps transcend the concept of the supernatural to the audience. The tense dynamic between the two performers was utilized to perfection by Lola Kelly’s direction. Rolfe Kent’s sound design wrapped everything up into a twitchy, tense package.

Although I enjoyed the story, there were moments in the script that could have been better explained to audience members. There were a couple of moments where I wasn’t sure when we were allowed to respond to a scenario that had been presented to us. This was the case when the show ended and the audience was left wondering how to proceed next. I’m not sure if better prompting from the cast members would have helped alleviate that sense of confusion or not.

Overall, THE WITNESSING is a good show to introduce theatre goers new to the immersive scene. The lecture format provides newbies with that feeling of watching a show without heavy interactivity, which I feel is a good baby step option. I definitely recommend this show if you want to spend the rest of the evening watching over your shoulder. It is heavy on the creep factor.

THE WITNESSING is being staged at Thymele Arts as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Shows will take place on June 15, June 16, June 21, June 22, and June 23. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their page on the Fringe website at: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5083.

Sarah Musnicky
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