Hollow Moon – the first offering from the new Vigilance Theatre Group

Nefariousness and insidiousness are lurking in an unassuming manor house in the East End of Pittsburgh. Heralded by invitations that indicate nothing past a gathering of likeminded associates ready for an evening of vague fun and sport, a group of roughly ten folks gathered in the grand foyer of a cozy home. Upon surrendering the cell phones, the guests began to mingle amidst four very noticeable personalities—Theo, Luke, Eleanor, and Dr. Montague—whose disclosures and withholdings seem all the more portentous after the casual merriment of the party is halted by a terrifying video message from the party’s host, the enigmatic Mr. Warrington. Immediately, the tone changes and everyone knows they are prey in a mysterious, mercurially-plotted, sinister game.

In its exciting infancy, Vigilance Theatre—created and engineered by Sean Collier, Renee Rabenold, Ariella Furman, and Dana Custer—has brought forth another installment to the ever-expanding immersive theatrical scene that has exploded in Pittsburgh. Hollow Moon, is centered around a dinner party rife with peculiar guests, fatal intrigue, and evil forces. It is made even eerier by a hidden locale that is only revealed to the lucky recipients of the invitations to the gathering around which Hollow Moon centers. The folks driving Vigilance, all of whom have tried their hands successfully at various creative and business endeavors in and around Pittsburgh, have worked fastidiously to add and experiment with more complex forms of immersive theatre that heighten the realism of the experience. By withholding the setting from everyone except participants, confiscating cell phones, and demanding the audience vow to secrecy (by cleverly interweaving NDA aspects into the menacing plot twists and reveals), the folks at Vigilance theatre have upped the ante by blurring the lines between reality and dramaturgical invention.

It is perhaps wise that Vigilance’s launch is a profoundly thematic piece that centers on spookiness and the uncontrollable unease of mistrust of strangers and situation. As the actors in the immersive play alternate between scripted moments, interstitial drama, and the improvised interactions borne from the unpredictability of the audiences’ responses and participation, they deftly navigate the somewhat vexing plot with aplomb. Hollow Moon benefits from the innate suspense of the premise (which does extra legwork when the plot falls short in certain moments)—the interpretability of the scenario, that then allows for quick-thinking dramatics that amuse and rivet the audience.

Hollow Moon is ultimately a work built upon a phenomenal kernel of an idea and tinkers with a genuine terror that most people must feel when watching suspense films like The Invitation or Funny Games. What brings us together in social situations; and, once there, what is it that makes us continue to keep up appearances (or let them implode entirely) against our best instincts? These questions drive much of the action and audience participation throughout Hollow Moon, and they give the play its core fascination (along with the actors’ steadfastness to their respective characters and situation). Hollow Moon is a daring endeavor from a new company that uses plot tricks and the resourcefulness of its’ actors to create a compelling, unsettling evening. If Vigilance continues to hone and develop the ideas put into motion with Hollow Moon, it is bound for astronomical heights.

For tickets to Hollow Moon runs now through November 18th. For tickets visit https://www.artful.ly/store/events/15750

Eva Phillips is celebrating her third year in Pittsburgh, third year writing for PGH in the Round, and twenty-seventh year not getting murdered (shockingly, despite all odds). She relocated to the brittle Steel City from Virginia to pursue her Masters in Literary and Cultural Studies at CMU (with a concentration in film theory and film criticism, and intersections with feminism and gender), and has spent the past few years in Pittsburgh cultivating her writing career, developing her blog https://www.tuesgayswithmorrie69.net/, raising two show cats, and widening her perspectives on the ever-evolving spectrum of theatre. She only has one Les Miserables tattoo out of her 32 tattoos, and she finds that morally reprehensible.

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