A young boy I don’t know (perhaps 13-14), sits across from me as we play Connect 4, a game I have never played. “What does it mean to be a grown-up?” he asks, placing a red chip in the board. It trickles down to settle in a hub as I answer him as promptly as I can. “To be constantly afraid,” I say. He laughs darkly. I put a black chip in. He counters me. “Seems about right,” he concedes.
In an immersive theater experience, sometimes one has an impromptu conversation while beating a child at a game one has never played (kudos, me). Sometimes one listens to dialogue other people are not privy to. Sometimes one is taken into a private room by a very hot (literally because he was sweating and his cheeks were red and figuratively come on we’re only human and he’s cute) dancer who places tarot cards in your hand and tells you there’s a plot against his child in this here chocolate factory.
The show was The Chocolatier, staged after a long hiatus by SONDERimmersive in a yoga studio in Sugarhouse. Participants selected cards from a tarot deck: The Hero (Emma Sargent), The Rejector (Edison Corvera), The Altruist (Severin Sargent-Catterton), The Libra (Chris DelPorto), or The Divine (Danell Hathaway). Your tarot deck corresponded with a color of mask that signified which of these persons you were to follow as you began your journey, but the rest was up to you. You could move forward or stay put. Wander between rooms or be swept off by a performer on a strange and ardent side quest, the taste of delicious, bitter chocolate dancing on your tongue.
Something I, as a performance artist and wrangler of actors, appreciated was the freedom of it all. I was taken by the hand by a dancer as he read my palm. He told me to close my eyes. He led me all around the warehouse. I did not trip or bump into any furniture. I did not suddenly come upon a room with a floor made of trampolines or melted marshmallow. There were no dragons. This type of performance art is fearless. It is loose, it is spontaneous, and it is exciting. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly is for me. As long as you have a floor and some passionate people, what is there to do but play?
SONDERimmersive is a relative newcomer to the Salt Lake performing arts scene, but their debut has been celebrated. The Chocolatier was set aside for COVID concerns but has now made its triumphant and marvelous return in an unlikely but perfect place.
Find out more about the enveloping and entrancing dance and theatre experience here. Comfortable shoes are recommended, and the space is ADA accessible.
Simply put, The Chocolatier is delicious.