Suspicious Package: Rx
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 14, 2009
Suspicious Package: Rx is enormous fun. This immersive theatre experience—the work of Gyda Arber, Aaron Baker, and a host of artistic collaborators—casts each of its audience members in a role in a short comedy of suspense and intrigue that carries them from the front door of the Brick Theater to locales all around the lively Williamsburg block surrounding the venue. It's sort of like a video/adventure game with live actors (who are the audience members). It's a grand way to spend part of a Saturday or Sunday summer afternoon.
I should begin by telling you how the experience works. There are six characters in Suspicious Package: Rx: a doctor, a corporate executive, a chemist, a Colonel in the US Army, a secretary, and a computer wiz. There are also six audience members/participants at each performance of Suspicious Package: Rx, each cast in one of the roles I just named. After a short, informative orientation conducted with charm and aplomb by Arber (which goes a long way toward relieving audience anxiety about interactive theatre), each participant receives a hat or similar prop that identifies his/her character (I played the computer wiz and was given a pair of nerdy oversized eyeglasses). They also receive an iPod, customized for their role, which serves as their guide to the next 45 minutes or so. I don't want to give too much away—my advice is to listen to and watch your iPod carefully: you can't get lost or make mistakes, and you will quickly find yourself wrapped up in the twisty story that Arber and Baker have concocted. By the end of the show, you and your five co-audience members will wind up together with the mystery satisfactorily resolved, on the receiving end of a free drink courtesy of Arber and Baker.
You'll also have had a chance to hear and see a recorded mini-play (on audio and video), performed by a host of Brick stalwarts, providing the customized back story for your own character. (Appearing on mine were Hope Cartelli, Rebecca Comtois, Roger Nasser, Ian W. Hill, and Fred Backus—all superb.) So there's a play within the play that you and your fellow audience members are making.
Best of all, Suspicious Package: Rx is extremely well written—the adventure that unfolds as you and your five colleagues troop around Metropolitan Avenue, Union Avenue, Conselyea Street, and Lorimer Street is gripping and interesting and even a little bit timely in a Twilight Zone-y way. Arber and Baker and their confederates have found a way to make the Suspicious Package franchise (there was a premiere edition last year) entirely fresh, and have crafted a one-of-kind immersive event that's tightly scripted and timed down to the millisecond. It's an hour unlike any other you'll spend inside a theater anywhere in New York (and of course you won't be inside a theater—you'll be in a bar, or a laundromat, or a mysterious loft). I highly recommend it!