NDE, directed by Nikoo Mamdoohi and produced by the Vahee Art Collective, is an immersive theatre experience about near death experiences, which are described here as, “an unusual and personal encounter taking place on the brink of death, and later recounted by a person after recovery.” This is a powerful devised play which speaks to the nature of life and how we handle our own mortality. I will attempt to explain this show without giving too much away, as part of the show’s appeal is in the surprise of the production’s mechanics.
When you enter the staging area you find six individuals seated in chairs with their personal belongings strewn around them. The audience is encouraged to move around to the different individuals who tell personal stories, but I chose to listen to one actor’s entire story before we moved to the next scene. The decision to stay in one place or move around at the very beginning of this play does herald what is to come. The narrative is circular and the idea of choice returns for each of the characters by the end.
The creativity of this production is really what makes it a stand-out feature at Charm City Fringe. Nikoo Mamdoohi has placed the actors strategically throughout the space, utilizing every corner of the room. At times the scenes evoke wonder, sadness, confusion, and a host of other emotions which we all experience at one point or another. Mamdoohi is a director to watch out for. Having seen my fair share of experimental and immersive plays over the years, it is rare to find one so well-executed.
There are a variety of faiths and cultures represented by the characters, but at times I found myself wishing they were a little less similar to each other in their narrative style. I believe this is a function of economics as it seemed each character came from an upwardly mobile background. This does not detract from the overall message of the play, but I do wish there was some variance. However, we are all human and anyone will find something to relate to in the work. Likewise, it’s possible that I missed an individual story which dove deeper into the dark corners of life.
NDE explores one of the great mysteries of life without losing itself in the process. Each actor is superb and Director Nikoo Mamdoohi is a true gem, showing signs of a very promising career ahead. Sparse lighting adds to the feeling of being swallowed by things that are outside of our control. Vignettes jump between the pedestrian and the surreal to take the audience on a journey through this near-death experience. Though the material leans towards the macabre, you’ll leave this play feeling more hopeful than when you went in – and with a lot to think about.
Running Time: 45 minutes, with no intermission.
NDE plays through November 12, 2017, at the 322 Stage – 322 North Howard Street, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets and Charm City Fringe Festival buttons may be purchased at Fringe HQ (Le Mondo, 406 N Howard Street), the venue, or online.
Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market is joining DC Metro Theater Arts in support of our coverage of the Charm City Fringe Festival. The Market closes at 6 PM on weekdays and is closed Sundays, but we recommend that Fringe-goers stop by on Saturday to grab lunch and take a look around, in addition to checking out the local bands which play from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.