No Fourth Wall at All 

Two theater companies look to the audience to help shake things up

Everybody talks about making theater more innovative, but this week two young theater companies are putting their money where their mouth is.

Richard Strelinger's Hydeware Theatre invades the funky Art Coop space for A Hot Dish, an evening of monologues and brief plays. The highlight is "Jabberwocky," a new one-act comedy by local John Shepherd. The conceit here is that the audience becomes the action in the play itself. Huh? How does that work?

We don't want to ruin any surprises, but Shepherd puts actors who pretend to be audience members onstage and has them face the real audience, like some sort of Andy Kaufman stunt or Pirandello play. The real audience is asked to read words on big cards, which the onstage "fake" audience responds to in stereotypical ways -- there should be a lot of laughter. A Hot Dish also features a performance of Eric Bogosian monologues by Brian Hyde and other short pieces.

The creators of brand-new troupe Flux Art/Theatre want to stage theater in unusual places (such as Laundromats) and to bridge the gap between visual art and theater, explains group co-founder Kenn Rudolph. The group' first experiment in lofty ideas is Portals: A Collaborative Journey Into Not-Self. Again, we don't want to ruin any surprises, but Flux will stage a mysterious ten-minute play -- Stuart Spencer's "The Rothko Room" -- about painter Mark Rothko. Audience members will become part of the play in a way they probably won't guess, and they may have to look sharp to detect when the actual drama begins.

Let's hear it for theater you come to not just for the play but to play.

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