This review of Captivated: Victoria does not contain any plot spoilers.
Attending a wake is not an easy task. The loved ones of the deceased all gather to pay tribute to a great life lost. What is the best way to look into the eyes of the grieving and offer your condolences? How do you show empathy and support when you’re not even sure you trust the person with whom you are speaking?
Captivated: Victoria, the second installment in the Captivated series from They Played Productions, is a tale of loss, death, and grief. In a refreshing format, Captivated: Victoria places the agency in the hands of us, the audience, as we uncover the many secrets hidden within the backstories of various guests at a funeral. We are asked to be active participants, and the information we uncover is ours to do with as we please: keep it to ourselves or use it in an attempt to unearth something deeper. There are layers here, many of which require strategy and cunning to uncover. Become who you need to be–because it just might have an impact on how you go about uncovering the truth.
On the surface, Captivated: Victoria deals heavily with grief. But in the nuanced intricacies, it is more of an exploration of trust and ulterior motives. Everyone you encounter seems to have an innocent and innocuous reason for being at the wake. However, if you pry, if you are bold enough to push on the squeaky floorboards, something darker may be revealed. These facades are an intrinsic analogy for the horrific truth the show itself is shrouding.
We are asked here by Mike, a manic activist, hacker, and perhaps even conspiracy theorist, to help in learning the truth regarding several missing women, all while Ely (from Act One: Justine) and his thugs are after him and maybe even us. At first we are tasked with searching through the files on a hacked computer, a tantalizing request that would make it hard not to want a peak behind the curtain. And this curtain is pulled back in an ingenious plot device that leads us into the past, leaving me feeling as if I was trespassing into someone else’s memory. Once we have entered the wake, we can choose to blend in or stand out amongst individuals who are seemingly doing the same. In what is an elaborate choose-your-own adventure storyline, the narrative is enhanced by engaging directly with the characters in this world.
While the set is bare bones, requiring a significant suspension of disbelief, the few artifacts that do line the room should not be left unexamined. From book titles to the photographed expressions of the deceased and the lovely widowed Victoria, there are clues to find. With only a small space to lose yourself in, it is a bit difficult to feel truly transported, which is where the strength of the actors and the veiled narrative come in.
Each of the actors in Captivated: Victoria are approachable and embody a somewhat exaggerated persona: the lawyer, so focused on protecting the hospital; the cordial funeral director, so sweet yet calculated in her moves; an imposing gentleman who seems to arrive with good intentions but begins to reveal a desire for vengeance; among others. The actors did an excellent job of telegraphing their personalities to the room through off-the-cuff monologues and subtle body language. Given the unpredictable nature of how the events could transpire, the actors rely on improvisation, which often feels real with a welcome touch of awkwardness, but sometimes came off as stiff and unprepared. In these moments, when small talk seemed to drag on, it was best to brush it off and casually find a new topic. I would have preferred a few more leading conversations, where actors pulled me into the narrative and revealed pertinent information. With much of the agency left up to the audience, this could be an enticing prospect for some, but an anxiety inducing burden for others.
Even in more passive moments, the narrative is always unfolding. I found it exciting to sit quietly and eavesdrop on multiple conversations happening around me, picking up disjointed details and emotions. The ability to piece these stray details together into a larger narrative remained my responsibility, one where the sum of its parts was not necessarily the end goal.
At one point in the experience, in what is the only solo aspect in this performance, guests are asked to take a moment of reflection in an adjacent room. We enter a surreal realm by way of a book of remembrance and we inhabit a new perspective. You may encounter a different side of someone you already know, as well as hear a confession directly from an individual that you have only heard others readily praise. This compelling aside from the main events, reveals new information and secrets and is a welcome break in tone that left me feeling reinvigorated.
Captivated: Victoria is an excellent foray into an agency-driven immersive experience, complete with strong actors, an intricate story, and entertaining conversations. Despite minimal sets, there are enough clever clues to keep the sleuths occupied. Ultimately, it is the audiences’ decision to decide if they will remain passive and eavesdrop on the conversations of others, or if they will take an active role in their own story and drive the narrative forward. Be inquisitive and you might just find out what’s hiding within.
For more information on They Played Productions, check out their website and follow their Facebook, and Instagram. Catch up on Captivated – Act One: Justine here and check out our interview with the creators here.