Don’t Miss ‘The Encounter’ In San Francisco

by Chris Narloch

If you’re looking for something artsy and amazing to do this weekend, I suggest you drive over to the gorgeous, newly-renovated Curran Theatre in San Francisco to see ‘The Encounter,’ a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience playing through this Sunday, May 7, 2017.

Tickets are still available for this mind-blowing sensory feast, which uses cutting edge sonic technology to put you in the middle of the Amazon rainforest for the adventure of a lifetime.

‘The Encounter’ traces the true story of how National Geographic photojournalist Loren McIntyre became lost in a remote area of Brazil in 1969, which led to a startling encounter that changed many lives.

Directed and performed by the tireless and terrific Simon McBurney, this sensational solo show uses binaural technology – basically 3D audio – to build a shifting world of sound that literally puts the play inside your head.

The first thing you notice after you take in the exquisitely restored interior of the Curran is the fact that each seat in the theatre has headphones draped over its back.

You will soon be directed to put the headphones on and required to wear them for the duration of the performance.

I won’t spoil all the surprises -- and it’s difficult to describe anyway -- but the headgear make the sound seem to be swimming inside and around your head, as if it were coming from outside the headphones.

There is very little in the way of a traditional onstage ‘set,’ but you barely notice because McBurney’s narration and a multitude of sound effects are being fed directly in to your ears.

The show’s emphasis on sound allows audience members to use their visual imagination, a surprisingly novel concept during an age when most theater is becoming increasingly literal and ‘cinematic.’

‘The Encounter’ is a uniquely aural experience, more than a visual one. Which is not to say that there is nothing going on onstage. On the contrary, McBurney must lose several pounds during each performance, moving around the stage like a panther in the rainforest.

The middle-aged actor throws his entire body in to his performance and works up such a sweat that we can almost feel the heat of the Amazon jungle as he takes off his shirt at one point.

I can’t imagine how complicated it must have been to synchronize the extensive lighting and sound effects in the show with what McBurney is saying and doing onstage.

You want to give the technical team and McBurney a standing ovation, which he very deservedly received the evening I saw the show.

Inspired by the book ‘Amazon Beaming’ by Petru Popescu, ‘The Ecounter’ is co-directed by Kirsty Housley and marks the San Francisco debut of the celebrated international theater company, Complicite.

‘The Encounter’ played on Broadway to great acclaim in 2016, and the strictly limited engagement at the Curran will be the show’s final performances in the United States. Don’t miss it.

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