The Portland Subway
Circle of Fire Productions
Through March 30

Here's what I think you'll experience at The Portland Subway: a steady stream of lunatics will scream and mutter to you about various existential dilemmas. Their rants will be accentuated by loud and horrific sound and visual effects. In that sense, it will be very much like an actual subway. At some point, you, the audience, will be swept up in their diatribe. They will ask you questions, challenge you with games, and if you respond incorrectly, you will be removed from the subway and inserted into some seats nearby, to watch the rest of the action unfold from afar. You will see some fine comic performances from Bill Holznagel (if that is his true name) as a cross dresser, and James Cheney as a Journey fanatic/mime. You will have fun.

Here's what I experienced at The Portland Subway, which I have a hunch is an entirely different matter. See, I saw the show, which relies heavily on audience participation, by myself. I was fooled into thinking that there were three other legitimate audience members with me, but as they gradually were removed from the stage and then re-inserted later as actual characters in the drama, it dawned on me that I was utterly alone.

Experiencing interactive theater by yourself is one thing. Experiencing it as a critic is quite another. It is nightmarish. I felt at the mercy of a band of lunatics, who had me cornered and were itching to torture me. In retrospect, this is a great feeling; scary, yet interesting, and props go out to Circle of Fire for establishing a truly creepy ambiance.

But it's not the experience that you will get at this show. You will see it with a group, and you will feel creeped out, but safe. You'll get the same level of entertainment, without the paranoia.