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The Curran stage is now an audio studio of sound and drama held down by the dynamic Simon McBureny, in the retelling of THE ENCOUNTER. It is now on the Curran stage only for few more performances and must close May 7th. This is the story of Loren McIntyre’s true-life adventure as a National Geographic photographer when he ventures solo in 1969 into the remote Javari Valley of Brazil while lost in the amazon as told in this vast sound explosion This audio mind expanding event marks the Curran San Francisco debut of the stunning international theater company, Complicite, as well as the final performances for the United States before he leaves for a national world wide performances.

The show originally premiered in 2015 at the Edinburgh International Festival before its sold-out success at London’s Barbican, followed by a European tour. It opened on Broadway September, 2016 at the John Golden Theatre last fall. Producer and owner of the Curran theatre, Carole Shorenstein Hays says “THE ENCOUNTER is about an epic journey, and I can’t think of a better place to celebrate this journey than with our curious and innovative Curran audiences.”

Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu, THE ENCOUNTER is co-directed by Kirsty Housley, design by Michael Levine. The ingenious layers to the sound design sound by Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, heart pounding lighting by Paul Anderson, and projections by Will Duke that take us to the other side. Co-produced with Edinburgh International Festival, the Barbican, London Onassis Cultural Centre, this audio maze reminded me of a well produced live radio show and, of course, today those are called podcasts.

As you enter the Curran we are required to wear some headphones that will immerse us into this experience. As Simon riffs with the audience and late comers, he asks us to adjust our head sets as he reaches into our brain to welcome us to his experience. Simon transforms into McBurney the man we follow into the Amazon. His performance is a mind bending tour de force. I would say there is nothing in theater quite like this but with live podcasts are becoming more theatrical - I believe this high tech form will be mainstream soon. Simon says to the sold out opening night audience ““I am now so close, in your ears I am now going to take a walk across your head.” The Encounter: Amazon Beaming, is based on the bio of a National Geographic photographer’s harrowing 1969 journey into a remote region of the Brazilian Amazon and his frightening encounter with the mysterious Mayoruna tribe. On the level of a lost in the wilderness story, McBurney delivers a almost two hours’ worth of electrifying sounds and a theatrical excellence.

The one-man show takes us deep into the Amazon jungle with Loren McIntyre; (pictured here)

not simply the remote wilderness, where much of the action happens, but into the forest of our consciousness and mind. A true psychedelic trip with no use of mushrooms or acid, yet the mention of magic frogs is important to the story. The 1969 journey is a frightening “encounter” with the mysterious Mayoruna tribe. A crumply dressed Simon in a button shirt and jeans inhabits a set trashed with no more than water bottles, a table and a chair as stage properties. The backdrop looks like acoustical paneling in a recording studio or radio booth. Paul Anderson’s driving lighting conveys much of the atmosphere and brings us into this journey. The audio track also includes an encounter with his daughter who seems so close to be off stage asking her dad to tell a night time bed story.

McBurney clearly enters our mind and the advantage of binaural technology and it creates the illusion of space sounds that can come from a distance or whisper in our ear. It can fool you into thinking that something you hear is happening in the back of the theater when, in fact, it is all in your mind. The story of the photographer’s lost days in the jungle is vast and we easily feel his pain and true confusion as he discovers much of the water the tribe provides for him is full of herbs and potions that turn hind to mush. Insects buzz around our heads, floods surge, animal life is alive. The words are visceral, as when McIntyre's discovers maggots that bore into and devour living flesh.

In the middle of the stage is a binaural microphone, shaped like a human head, and it is the key to the main portal to most of the sounds we listen to. Binaural technology has been around for a while but in this performance of THE ENCOUNTER the art is truly a new perfect form for live theatre. In the end we are forced to wonder what is real, and what time are we making this event happen. He questions who he is with the true person he presents to us, a close ENCOUNTER and a mind-blowing experience

THE ENCOUNTER is a breathtaking ride. It feels like millennial theatre and, in a profound way we see just how hard-wired we all are. An hallucinatory, tech-augmented tour de force, this is an extraordinary feat of theatrical storytelling unlike anything you will have experienced before. He remains one theatrical step ahead of his technology. This is a MUST SEE, a GO SEE, and the whole list of FIVE STAR ratings I can muster up to encourage you to see this intense immersive theater event. (only a few performances remain)

The Curran Theatre and Complicite theater company present


Directed and performed by Simon McBurney

Only Through May 7

The Curran, 445 Geary St., San Francisco

Two hours, no intermission

Details: $49-$129; 415-358-1220,


RUSH TICKETS at 25.00 each can be purchased day of show - download the app

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