By: Alex Nguyen
To put it simply: Seeing You is a kinematic tour de force. Created by Randy Wiener of Sleep No More fame and Grammy Award-winning choreographer Ryan Heffington, Seeing You is an immersive theatre experience set during the tumultuous times of World War II.
For the uninitiated, Seeing You is perhaps best characterized as experiential theatre, in which the audience is part of the set – and at times, encouraged to participate in the elements therein. In this case, the sprawling performance space underneath the High Line has been artfully rendered a labyrinth, whose walls, chambers and sets continually shift as the story develops. For those who have not been fully acquainted by immersive theater before, the narrative structure can be disorienting. Yet, Seeing You elegantly solves this issue through creative set design and measured direction, effectively shepherding the audience while offering ample opportunity to interact with singular characters.
This structure arguably enhances the immersive quality of the experience, allowing guests to freely interact with the cast and the setting without having to worry about missing the overarching narrative. On this surface level, Seeing You succeeds in constructing a narrative depicting nationalism at its most grotesque – a manic exploration of the once-noble, corrupted American spirit in the events leading up to and during the War.
This exaggerated jingoism, persistent in the stunning set-pieces throughout, serves as the backdrop, the lingering punchline: the stop-motion speakeasy scuffle, the quasi-ritualistic blood drive, the unnerving USO show, the affecting climax. And it is well executed, with deft choreography, seamless sound design, and a cast full of frantic energy.
But these set-pieces, while impressive, do not fully encompass Seeing You. The soul of the play is rather in its examination of the human drama affecting the soldiers and civilians as they prepare for war. While many of these interactions occur in the spotlight, many happen more intimately between two individuals, perhaps out of earshot from the main narrative – and often in simultaneity with each other. Thus, Seeing You is a bespoke experience dependent on which interactions you choose to focus on.
It is in these little scenes where you can sympathize with a Japanese-American teacher conflicted between loyalty to her country and her father fighting for the other side. It is here, where you can lose yourself in reverie as you watch a closeted infantryman torn asunder between the memory of his faithful wife at home and the affections of a sharp-jawed soldier. It is here, where you can be overwhelmed by the heart-rending grace of lovers separated by an ocean trying to preserve a doomed intimacy.
It is here, where Seeing You reveals itself as a triumph.
We were guests of Seeing You, however, the opinions are our own. For more information visit SeeingYou.NYC.