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Posted at 3:04 PM ET, 07/18/2008

Audience Disintegration

By Stephanie Merry

"Power House's" promise of audience participation made the show sound so appealing. (Charlie Fink and Bouncing Ball Productions)

The name alone, "Power House: The Disco Energy Dance Along Show," sounded so promising. And the synopsis only intrigued me more: a futuristic rave show in which dancers are employed to create clean "disco-tech" energy. The best part was that, like a number of other Fringe shows, the play involves audience participation; theater-goers are part of the energy machine. But "Power House" only served to answer the question of what happens when the audience stops participating?

The show, at Source, started out well. After the actors handed out glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces, a hilarious video aired on a giant screen. A circa-1960s scientist in a short-sleeved button-down and skinny black tie talked in his nerdy scientist way about the technology of converting dancing into clean energy. For better or worse, his demonstration of how to dance was the best part of the show. The audience was game too, and everyone mimicked his distinctly uncool moves.

But then there was a shift. The live portion of the show began and things became a whole lot more somber. While the audience danced on stage, four actors in bright colors grooved to the beat of a DJ, and two scientists monitored the dancers' energy yield. And what started out as a silly take on technology, turned suddenly into "Brave New World" meets "The Truman Show."

The dancers were apparently locked in and forced to continuously dance, and they didn't know better because they were fed "vitamins" of GHB and Ritalin. But when one of the dancers decided to buck the system, stop taking his supplements and therefore stop dancing, the scientists turned to shock treatments, manipulation and the use of a seductive killer.

When a play turns so heavy so quickly, what happens to the urge to dance? If the audience at last night's show is any indication, that energy completely evaporates. Most people just stood around, awkwardly watching the horrifying events unfold.

I might have enjoyed it more if the audience were seated the whole time. Forty-five minutes is a long time to stand around and secretly wonder, "Should I be dancing right now?" Then again, if the show was more uplifting or amusing, I would have no problem bopping around the stage for an hour or more.

In the end, "Power House" didn't live up to my dance-loving hopes. All that darkness just took the spring out of my step.

Were you able to sustain your groove throughout "Power House" or any other Fringe shows with audience participation? Let me know in the comments.

--Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 18, 2008; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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Comments

See the Diamond Dead at Warehouse! It's the best musical I've seen at fringe with true rock musicians and a goofy zombie premise. The music is by one of the Rocky Horror guys, and the show inspires similar audience participation and sing along. This is one of a kind.

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