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Premiere of Original Immersive Piece, and Directorial Debut

"It's the familiar story of "The Nutcracker" but with a twist. On the eve of the Russian Revolution, a girl unravels the truth behind her dreams and nightmares as a mysterious stranger blurs fantasy and reality. Another twist: you enter her world as a guest at a holiday celebration, moving from room to room in her house to encounter objects and uncover family secrets as the roar of protesters filters in from outside. And the biggest twist of all: you decide which of the play's three actors to follow.

"Marie and the Nutcracker Prince" introduces audiences to immersive theater, an interactive form of stagecraft which removes all the structural barriers that separate audience and actors in traditional theater. Instead of sitting, audiences stand and walk through the theater space. To see how the story unfolds, they must explore the set, literally follow the characters, and choose one over another when they separate and pursue their individual paths.

An original play developed and produced by Breadcrumbs Productions, "Marie" premiered in Syracuse on Nov. 23 at SALTspace, a black box performance space on Marcellus Street, and will travel to a handful of area venues through Dec. 23.

The three-member cast assumes multiple roles. Breadcrumbs associate producer and director Maya Dwyer plays the title character Marie, Breadcrumbs founder and artistic director Tanner Efinger is the stranger, and Tallon Larham is Marie's godfather, an enigmatic inventor with political ties. Their strong performances -- which include singing, dancing, improvisation and stage combat -- not only demonstrate their versatility but break down the fourth wall between performer and theatergoer, drawing onlookers into the action.

Designer and stage manager Andrew Hughes functions as a fourth player, guiding participants from one room to another, pulling open doors, distributing audience props, and operating lighting and sound equipment. Through simple, effective staging techniques and lighting design, he converts the lobby of the SALTspace into a multi-room house with a handful of vignettes that suggest separate rooms. A blue-lit side space becomes Marie's bedroom, the black box theater is a dreamscape of swirling lights and deep resonant sounds, and a hallway lit by flickering candles leads to an unheated cinderblock room representing the poverty and deprivation of the streets. Together, they create a well-defined narrative space that is both dreamlike and spare.

The fun in this type of production is the exploration; it's a thinking person's holiday-themed 'haunted' house minus the shocks and gore but with all the delights of discovery.

If you're looking for a joyous feel-good Christmas show, move on; but if you're up for something different, this politically-themed reimagining of the classic Nutcracker story is intriguing, unlike anything else you will see this season." - Linda Lowen,


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