Monday, July 22, 2019

Cabal: Deep secrets in plain sight

Photo by Dan Norman
Over the years, Walking Shadow Theatre Company has explored plenty of mental and physical spaces. For the latter, they've previously produced a pair of "plays with puzzles," 1926 Pleasant and Saboteur.  After a long gestation period, the company's latest, Cabal, has arrived.

Over the years, the concept behind these -- the audience teams together to solve puzzles and experience the story -- has become more familiar with the popularity of escape rooms, but Walking Shadow's distinct twist has always been more immersive. The secret? Adding an intriguing plot and characters we can care about.

In Cabal, the audience (limited to 10 people) take on the roles of initiates in a secret magical order. Being an initiate comes with great responsibilities, especially after an off-stage death sends the entire order into chaos, leaving the new crew to right the rocking ship.

In performance terms, that means we have some puzzles (designed by David Pisa) to solve. I won't go into specifics, as much of the experience is about working out fresh challenges on the spot. I will say that they all had enough layers to them to mean that the group had to work together to solve them, and that they all took some puzzling out and the occasional false step to solve. So like a Resident Evil game, without the constant threat of zombies munching on your shoulders.

While the puzzles are the main attraction, the story and characters really give Cabal its texture. As the secrets are uncovered, the play part of the show (created by John Heimbuch) delves into heavier themes, especially the concepts of sacrifice and forgiveness. (Again, specifics would give away too much of the plot.)

This is aided by the initial cast, with Jamie Case and Tara Borman offering a mixture of tight characters and the occasional gentle guidance if the team ever falters on the puzzle.

Most of all, Cabal is a singular experience, and a reminder of how flexible and unique live theater can be. The show is in an open run, but each performance can only have 10 cast members. For more information, visit online.

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