Despite spending approximately 36 hours per day thinking Albany Thoughts, your humble Albablogger hadn't heard of NorthEast Theatre Ensemble until about two weeks ago, when I stumbled across one of their posts about their new show on Instagram. Maybe you haven't heard of them either. They're new-ish -- their first productions appear to have been in 2015 -- and what makes them special is an even more recent development: they're doing what they call "innovative site-specific productions" in the Capitol District. What that means, in practice, is a really great night out that isn't like anything else currently going on in Albany.
The show right now is Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, which they've staged inside of the Ten Broeck mansion. Wilde can be tough to pull off -- the actors have to spout off an average of about 20 arch Victorian witticisms per minute in upper-crust English accents -- and though there were a few opening-night flubbed lines and prop mishaps, and one or two of the actors seemed to be struggling a bit with the accent, the overall caliber of the performances was excellent. Dennis Schebetta as Lord Goring was a particular standout: there were moments when his dialog was muffled by the small sold-out audience cracking up, though several of the other actors also got big laughs throughout the evening.
It's the "immersive" aspect to the play, however, that really makes this production special. It's a Victorian show set in a Victorian mansion, and you move from room to room along with the characters. In Steve Barnes' glowing review for the TU he describes it as "like watching movie acting without the separation of a screen," which feels about right to me: instead of distant painted scenery you're right there in the room watching the characters interact from close-up. You even get to eat and drink what they do: the actors who play the servants also offer you champagne, tea and cucumber sandwiches, or hock and seltzer (a very manly Victorian white wine spritzer, it turns out) between scenes. Even though at first there's a bit of awkwardness to the grown-up make-believe, as the show goes on it's weirdly easy to get into the swing of things and imagine yourself as part of the show.
All of this is to say that you should buy your tickets now. Space at each show is limited, and they're already sold out until Thursday the 18th. If upper-class Victorian twits aren't quite your thing, though, you're in luck: this summer they're going to be doing A Streetcar Named Desire at AdCo, so presumably the audience will be as drunk and sweaty as the characters. You probably won't want to miss it.