Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Encounter
Curran Theatre
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Phèdre, A Song to Sing, O!, and Temple

Simon McBurney
Photo by Gianmarco Bresadola
The Curran Theatre is presenting the innovative The Encounter, conceived, directed and written by Simon McBurney. The 110-minute monologue is performed using audio technology that makes it seem as though sounds are springing from real locations around you. It's an amazing production and I sat there for without a break spellbound as Simon McBurney related the experiences of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer who in 1969 found himself lost among the indigenous people of the remote Javari Valley, in the Amazon jungle.

Simon McBurney enters the bare stage with only a table and a couple of microphones; one microphone in the center of the stage records sounds in space. The audience has individual headsets at their seats and he explains with his wonderful nasal British accent how to use them. When his whispered voice comes through one side, it's as if he is standing right next to you. So begins the story in clear stereophonic sound of photographer Loren McIntyre, who successfully located the Mayouruna people.

McBurney goes right into the rainforest, making his own animal howls and insect rasps as he circles madly about the stage. The magic of mosquitos buzzing, monkeys crackling, and even a child's voice (the daughter of Simon McBurney) is uncanny. It's a profoundly personal experience completely transporting you into the jungle. McBurney's voice illuminates the various sounds. He is an ardent storyteller, both cunning and wild, and he needs no high-tech phenomena to make his case, but the headphones accentuate the personal connection he creates with each member of the audience.

Bottom Line:The Encounter reminds me of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre of the 1930s and '40s, but in stereo. It is a mind-expanding experience.

Complicite's The Encounter runs through May 7, 2017, at the Curran, 450 Geary Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtain on line at

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