Drama Talk & Drinks: The Encounter – “like nothing I have ever seen.”

Ever since the Curran’s grand-reopening earlier this year, the theater has been bringing some serious theater game, living up to their mission of “presenting bold, daring work”. Their latest show, The Encounter, promised audiences an “epic journey” through the use of the latest in 3D audio technology. Actor and director Simon McBurney’s one-man-show takes audiences into the Amazon rainforest, following the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre.  We had a feeling that this was going to be something special, so off we went for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.


Simon McBurney in THE ENCOUNTER (Photo by Gianmarco Bresadola)

Katie: This was like nothing I have ever seen. That in itself was magical. There were moments where I could feel myself making a crazy face and thinking “what’s happening, this is so cool”. I have just never experienced storytelling in that way. He (Simon McBurney) was an amazing actor and storyteller. Then you throw in what he did with sound design and it made it a recipe for awesomeness. It was one man on a very bare stage but I really felt taken away.

Brittany: Yeah, it was mesmerizing. It’s also an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand he’s using the story of encountering this remote tribe in the Amazon to critique the consumerism and technological dependence of modern Western society. At the same time, the way he’s able to transport you on this journey is through the use of this amazing audio technology and lighting. There are a few groups in the environmental movement who are exploring how you can use technology to build deeper empathy and concern for places like the Amazon rainforest. That certainly was one goal of this show. While I don’t know if I came away with a concrete way to change my behavior, aside from shunning bottled water, but it certainly gave me a deeper experience of the rainforest. It was a very innovative way to engage people.

Katie: The show presented a lot of interesting questions and ideas on the environment and generally on life. I appreciated the way it encouraged us to challenge our perceptions about the truthfulness of stories we tell, what it means to be alive, and what we should value.

Brittany: Also major kudos to the Curran. When we were walking out I was thinking how unique it is to see a piece like this in a theater this size. It was amazing to see this on a big scale. One little person on this great big stage and he was able to fill it. I feel like you don’t get the opportunity to do that very often. And it was mesmerizing for the 2 full hours.

Katie: I’d have to say that the Curran is really sticking to their promise to be bold and different. I’ve seen some really cool and innovative theater there. Looking forward to seeing what they do next.

The Verdict: SO cool! A very unique and mesmerizing experience. Go! Go now!

The Drama Talk: Simon McBurney did an incredible job transporting the audience to another place. He gets in your head, or at least your ears, through the use of  3D audio technology that is served directly to each audience member via personal headphones found at each seat. The masterful sound design is at once intimate and immersive. The story takes the audience to the Amazon rainforest and the sound design makes you feel surrounded by the jungle, the river, the mosquitos and the swirling voices of the story being told. Technically speaking it was incredible, but beyond the flashy technology, it also was just great storytelling.

The Drinks: A block away from the theater on Geary we checked out the Pineapple Bistro and Bar in the Alise San Francisco hotel. It was a great choice because is was practically empty with plenty of seating and great service. There were lots of pineapple everything, and Katie’s drink even came in a brass pineapple, which felt appropriately jungle themed after an evening in the Amazon.

The Encounter runs through May 7th at the Curran. Tickets are $49-$185 and can be purchased on the Curran’s website.

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