Beloved/Departed invites guests to the wedding of Orpheus (Joshua James) and Eurydice (Kendra Slack) at the West Park Presbyterian Church (photo by Russ Rowland)
The Center at West Park
West Park Presbyterian Church
165 West 86th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Wednesday - Saturday through May 18, $45-$75, 8:00
A significant part of the attraction of immersive theatrical productions is the opportunity to wander through cool places you might not otherwise see. Third Rail Projects took the audience behind the scenes of the Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center for Ghost Light and is still guiding people through a former parochial school in Greenpoint in Then She Fell, Creative Time led adventurers around the Brooklyn Navy Yard for Doomocracy, the musical KPOP sang and danced its way up and down A.R.T., and Woodshed Collective’s Empire Travel Agency even drove participants around Lower Manhattan. In Beloved/Departed, which opened last night and continues through May 18, Linked Dance Theatre invites guests to the ill-fated wedding of Orpheus and Eurydice at the Center at West Park, where they will be led all over the late-nineteenth-century West Park Presbyterian Church. The low-budget production offers ticket holders three options: being part of the wedding party ($75) or choosing to sit on the groom’s or bride’s side ($45). Each choice results in a slightly different experience, but everyone gets to see the key scenes. Musician and poet Orpheus (Joshua James) is given away by Apollo (Calvin Tsang), the sun god, while nymph Eurydice (Kendra Slack) is given away by Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis (Kellyn Thornburg), the goddess of the hunt; the siblings do not much care for each other, and their rift affects the newly married couple when Eurydice suddenly disappears and the characters and guests set out to find her. Among the other celebrants who become involved in the story are Hermes (Maya Gonzalez), Aphrodite (Rita McCann), Hades (director Jordan Chlapecka), Persephone (Chloe Markewich), Charon (Matt Engle), Hymen (Engle), and the Muse (Oliver Burke “Tillett”). Guest are led by various gods through the balcony, into the basement, and around small rooms until Eurydice is found and the plot takes a much darker turn.
Twins Artemis (Kellyn Thornburg) and Apollo (Calvin Tsang) are at odds throughout Beloved/Departed (photo by Russ Rowland)
Conceived by Slack and Chlapecka, Beloved/Departed has a DIY feel to it, from curtains draped awkwardly to set off or block certain areas, relatively lame reception snacks, and curiously used paper airplanes; at one point a few guests were even asked to clear some tables. In addition, the search for clues is disappointing, as the audience members don’t really get to find information, despite being led to believe otherwise. (And don’t lean against the upstairs columns.) But there are also neat touches and a charming creativity in evidence, including the presents from other gods, mingling with characters at the party, and lots of Prosecco. A string quartet, consisting of Camille Enderlin and Leerone Hakami on violin, Anna Heflin on viola, and Lydia Paulos on cello, is excellent, following the action through the 10,000-square-foot space, accompanying the dancing, primarily duets that further reveal the characters’ motives and emotions, with such pairings as Orpheus with Eurydice, Apollo with Artemis, Orpheus with the Muse, and Aphrodite with Hermes. Some of the actors and dancers are more polished than others (James stands out as Orpheus, who has a down-home charm), and the play is probably about a half hour too long, as the pacing is far too inconsistent; immersive shows need to keep the audience involved every minute to keep up interest. Linked Dance Theatre — which has previously staged such works as Like Real People Do, If You Tame Me, Soul of the Sea, and Freaks Don’t Cry in such locations as Central Park, the Rockaway Brewing Company, the Coney Island Side Show, and on board the docked Lilac ship — also alter the mythology, so Greek classicists shouldn’t think too hard about every detail. Members of the wedding party get to drink Prosecco before everyone else and learn a little more background at the beginning (for example, groomsmen play cards with Orpheus and Apollo and share some secrets), but I’m not sure it’s worth the additional thirty dollars, unless you really can’t wait to start drinking. So it’s an up-and-down affair, in more ways than one.