Credit: Rebecca Lawson

Interrobang Theatre Project presents Iranian playwright Nassim
Soleimanpour’s experimental one-person show, in which a different actor is
handed a script he or she hasn’t read and asked to involve the audience in
a drama that may or may not result in the actor’s demise.

The setup is simple: an actor, a script, a table with two glasses of water
and a vial of an unknown powder, a chair, and a stepladder. Soleimanpour’s
acerbic and clever exploration of control and free will transforms these
rudimentary props and the participants who wield them into a powerful
statement about the plight of an individual in an oppressive society.

Stephanie Shum ably navigated these perilous waters on the night I saw the
show. I was compelled to participate (it was not a request); I was #9, the
bear. That the audience has to be part of the show might on the surface
make one think of the comedy improv form, but Soleimanpour’s intent is the
polar opposite of the average Second City sketch. While the script
instructs those who remain seated to clap, their former neighbors onstage
are accessories to a potential crime rather than straight men there to sell
a joke. It’s a lot closer to the Stanford Prison Experiment than to Saturday Night Live, but it’s as compelling and thought-provoking
an hour as I’ve spent at the theater this year.   v