Tradition Be Damned Immersive has taken over a desanctified church at 700 Delaware Street, SW, Washington, DC. Known as the Blind Whino, or better by the fanciful colors that electrify the church’s once solemn exterior, this space is now home for the resistance.
A troupe of circus performers, movers and shakers, crazy loons, and reporters and bloggers, mingle with the audience, many of whom have also dressed for the occasion: a cabaret of sorts; or better, a non-traditional cabaret with fire-breather (Cole Turpie), cabbage-patch stripper (Bearcat Betty), juggler, singer, contortionist, aerialist, and rapper.
And, yes, the resistance.
TBD Immersive’s experience is rooted in Weimar cabaret, or Germany’s version of the roaring 20s when Germans, stuck between an economic collapse following World War I and an even worse economic collapse following America’s Great Depression, lived it up, and to the extreme.
Immersive’s In Cabaret We Trust just isn’t quite extreme enough, however, or compact enough, to immerse this audience member in its alternative reality. I come to theatre ready to drink the hard stuff, and this stuff was Bud Light.
The show begins in the courtyard before the space opens. The audience mingles while a contortionist limbers up and a juggler entertains the crowd.
The owner of the cabaret, Madame Martine (Amanda Haddock) approaches, claiming to know me. I play along, as does my wife. The “resistance” is introduced.
Later, Mandi with an “i” (Zoe Walpole) greets us; she has a YouTube channel apparently, but in this fictional space who knows what’s true (after the show, I searched for evidence but found none).
A reporter-like man mingles among the populace, notebook in hand, while a man in feathery mask strides hyper-aggressively about the court.
Drinks are sold; the audience enters the space.
Blind Whino is a fabulous space, filled with paintings and images that would make the electric kool-aid of an earlier generation proud.
The upstairs, where the cabaret proper is held, is the old sanctuary, now guarded by two fierce werewolves. Along the walls are gorgeously large red roses and a palm the size of an elephant’s ear.
After a bit, the MC (D. Scott Graham) takes the stage. He introduces the newest member of the team, Chaseedaw Giles, and she delivers a soft-spoken rap.
The first set ends with singer Lila Rose (Catherine Deadman) delivering an edgy, sultry version of Patsy Cline’s “You Made Me Love You,” a song stopped by a hooded, liquor-throwing terror attack.
The cabaret of In Cabaret We Trust consists of a series of four or five sets interrupted by 15-minute intermissions, during which audience members mingle and talk, upstairs and down.
Down stairs, there’s more liquor and more art, and it’s hanging on the walls.
While viewing the art, “things” happen. People deliver monologues and experience mental breakdowns, and then a woman hands me a note telling me to deliver it to Madame Martine. To be sure, as in all immersive theatrical experience, each audience member experiences a different narrative.
The core narrative involves Senator Johnson. Exactly what is going on in this core narrative has something to do with sex and reporters and closing down the cabaret and sundry other fragments, but I’ll leave clarity for others to fill in.
Apparently, the premise for In Cabaret We Trust is the idea that we live in world similar to the world at the end of the Weimar Republic before the rise of fascism, with the Obama years representing a Weimar-like cultural renaissance.
That renaissance is now threatened by Trump.
And to be sure, we live on the edge of a knife during these days of endless war and growing economic polarization. Despite our politicians’ rhetoric, climate change marches forward with persistent fracking and luxury homes. And American culture has become all about glorification, and nothing about critique.
So it’s good that the resistance has proclaimed itself, once again, though it never went away. Not the real resistance anyway.
For a unique experience visit In Cabaret We Trust.
Specific performers change with each performance. The full cast includes Catherine Deadman, Chaseedaw Giles, Matthew Gibeson, Marissa Goodstone, D Scott Graham, Amanda Haddock, Zoe Walpole, Melanie Boyer, Kathleen Burnard, Darnell Eaton, Lida Benson, Andrew Dominic Filicicchia, Allison Frisch, Emily Gilson, Molly Graham, Maura Claire Harford, Alex Kazanas, Kaitlin Kemp, Beth Lyons, Colleen Parker, Annetta Sawyer, Ray Simeon, Dakota Schuck, Heather Marie Vitale, Members of Peculiarity Productions (Fire Troupe), Lauren Hanyock, Samantha Kacos, Shanna Lim, Erin Muessig, Eva Mystique, and Alyssum Pohl.
Running Time: 2 hours, with intermissions and continuous action.