To call “The Fever” a show would not be accurate, because “The Fever” is not seen: it is experienced. It would be more fitting to call it a play, in the full-of-imagination, childlike sense of the word. The audience lives and participates in the world that the actors create, and even become actors themselves. Collaboration and trust are the keys to enjoying “The Fever,” as well as knowing with certainty that you will be called up to play a role in this creative exercise in community and togetherness.
‘The Fever’ is not seen: it is experienced.
Beginning at The Public Theater in New York, “The Fever” is the brainchild of Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, the couple behind 600 Highwaymen. Browde and Silverstone lead the production, welcoming the audience into a party much simpler than the world we inhabit. From something as small as hand movements, to collectively lifting a cast member into the air, their coaxing, undemanding tones create a blanket of calm that is only pulled back to give glimpses into larger themes. In the final moments of the play, they also ask the audience to keep the events of the night to themselves (a promise I will do my best to keep).
It is mandatory that you enter the theater with an open mind. Select a seat along the single-layered rectangle that surrounds a bright red floor and be prepared to go along with whatever you are asked to do. If the prospect of standing up in front of strangers is terrifying to you, then “The Fever” probably is not meant for you. But, as the show progresses, the presence of these strangers becomes comforting; a reassurance that we are not as different as we seem, that we are still capable of working together.
At times, “The Fever” borders on surreal. Lighting makes it appear as though the theater fades away; I could have sworn that a manufactured ringing in the ears was meant to disorient us, and musical cues are perfectly timed to trigger an emotional response. But “The Fever” is also as grounded as it is dreamlike. A particularly resonant section regards childhood in a way that evokes strong memories. We are constantly reminded that we are creating the piece with the actors, that we are in control of our own experiences. And if you commit yourself to the collaboration, you will leave the theatre with the funny feeling that you have experienced something extraordinary.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.
“The Fever” plays through November 4, 2018, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D Street NW, Washington, DC 20004. To purchase tickets, call 202-393-3939 or go online.