It’s one of the Capital Fringe Festival’s most dazzlingly technological concepts: Each audience member is given a set of wireless, two-channel headphones. You can choose which of the two channels to listen to — one might be a character’s dialogue while the other is his internal monologue, for example — as the actors lip-sync along (make sure you turn off your cellphone; the signal can interfere with the audio). But because you can’t hear both, you’ll have to make choices throughout the show.
If only the plot were as strong as the concept. The story of a passive-aggressive feud between two friends, by Richmond’s AVAdventure Productions, lacks heft. Renee (Caitlin Carbone) and Alex (Summer McCarley) are first roommates, then neighbors — and as much as they would like to grow apart, the thin walls of their adjacent apartments are keeping them locked in a jealous competition. Carbone and McCarley do their best Milli Vanilli to the dual audio tracks, but perhaps due to the contrivance of the lip-syncing, there is little room for subtlety in the performances.
Where subtlety comes in, though, is in the audio recordings. AVAdventures superbly captures the muffled sounds of an old apartment building and voices heard through flimsy walls. The sound effects convey a real sense of place. There are also some nifty audio tricks, like when Renee and Alex are having two separate, simultaneous conversations with another friend, TJ (Mauricio Marces), but his dialogue is the same on both channels.
You won’t catch every line. AVAdventures recommends you bring a friend to the show, so you can get together afterward and debrief. The scenes where you can switch between a character’s dialogue and inner monologue provide the most disparate experience — but many times, what they were saying was more interesting than what they were thinking, as their thoughts could be easily inferred.
So, don’t worry — whether you stay on the same channel or switch frequently, you aren’t missing out.