The Horrifically Real Virtuality is hard to categorize. It's a theatre piece mixed with a 3D movie mixed with audience participation in a virtual world. It when a small group (us) enters what looks like a cheap sound stage to witness Ed Wood filming a scene for his latest movie starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, however, is only seen on the monitor screens as a 3D character, in the real world, he is played by an actor in virtual reality suit that transfers his movements to the 3D puppet. The audience is asked to help in the production which goes wrong, of course, while Wood enthusiastically declare it's all perfect and great. I began to think this was the experience the show was going to give me and was pretty disappointed. Not badly done, but hardly what I imagined a VR experience to be.
Then it all changed. We were escorted to a small hallway, suited up in VR gear with VR headsets and told to enter the cinema for the premiere of the film we just aided in the filming of. The world is now in black and white and appropriately suited up, the hallway is now the entry to the screening room, we walked through the virtual door, sat down and the film started. There were virtual spectators and real ones, we were all... aliens? ... basically we had very similar faces and costumes with our lower bodies replaces by floating flying saucers. You couldn't tell who those you came in with were anymore. The film titles stop and we then could walk directly into the film, a cemetery set with a strange box that had a reproduction of the set we filmed in inside of it. You can touch the box with your virtual hands... a very strange thing to see hand that you move but aren't your own. Then the house in the distance move forward and we enter it, into the set and Bela Lugosi exits the toilet and starts giving us instructions on how we can save his bring his wife, kidnapped by aliens back to him. You can sit on the couches, turn the TV on an off and interact with Lugosi. At the end, you take the headsets off and you are still in the hallway you put them on in.
What just happened? It was amazing and really disturbing and totally fun.
Critiques are minor. The writers obviously did a lot of research on Wood but ignored and managed to somehow miss the mark on the feel of his life and films, I thought. Much of that can be explained by the enormous task of bringing it to a live audience in a virtual set up I would guess. Still, I do think he should have been in an angora sweater at the end while reading the terrible reviews the film got as we exited the show. Despite that not happening we left feeling giddy, excited and unsure what was real or not.