Extinction event – a review of “Dodo”

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

When you sign up to partake in an immersive theatrical event with Bricolage, you must expect the unexpected. “Dodo,” co-created by the uber-imaginative team of Jeffrey Carpenter, Gab Cody, Tami Dixon and Sam Turich, is a feast for five senses.

It is far easier to explain what “Dodo” is not – – than what it is. It is not a typical evening at the theater. You can’t just sit back and watch actors do their thing. Participation is key. Wear sensible shoes. You will be meandering through the vast expanse of the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History.

In this particular piece of immersive theater, ‘donors’ tour the museum in the dark. Any kid who has read E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” will tell you that walking around the museum at night is both thrilling and terrifying.


Yukon Ho!

On the tour, you’ll meet a variety of unusual individuals, such as the Explorer (Michael McBurney). McBurney’s Explorer is reminiscent of a crazed Colonel Crittenden (Bernard Fox from TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes”). He’ll show you polar bear, some Eskimo’s and a herd of muskox. He’s delightfully loony.

Flowers in the Attic

You may meet Marvin (Tyler Ray Kendrick) and Maeve (Kelsey Robinson) in the labyrinthine attic above the museum. They will regale you with song and tempt you to stay with them. Robinson’s Maeve will strum the ukulele and sing softy. It’s a beautiful moment, but not everyone who attends “Dodo” will get to experience it. There are several different pathways in “Dodo,” but it’s about the journey and not the destination.

“This Parrot is no more!”

You may get to watch a museum employee, Hannah, remove the brain of a local bird, who, she claims, smacked into the glass window of a building in downtown Pittsburgh. You may also get to see the museum’s vast collection of dead birds neatly stacked in shelves in, what appears to be, an avian mausoleum.

Random Factoid acquired on the tour: An albatross can have a wingspan up to 11 feet. The birds are gigantic.

Spoilers, sweetie, spoilers!

The tour culminates in a rather bizarre sequence that has been redacted from this review. In the end, you’ll find yourself standing among gems and minerals mined from all over the Earth, sipping hot tea.

Bizarre observation: A deposit of stibnite found in Upper Mongolia looks a lot like a silvery version of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. All the colors of the Earth can be found in the earth.

If you’ve guessed that the experience is more Dadaist than “Dodo,” you should win a prize; perhaps said prize can be a preserved butterfly under glass, a fossilized egg or smooth, white pelvic bone from a long dead animal.

“Dodo” is an intriguing, mystifying evening that frees your inner child (especially if you have a little Claudia or Jamie Kincaid in there).

There is some excellent sound and lighting design work from District 5 Sound and Clear Story.

Warning: “Dodo” isn’t for everyone. If you’re afraid of the dark, or don’t like roller coasters (seriously), you might want to skip the show.

If you’ve never been to an immersive theatrical event; “the time has come.” The Bricolage name typifies their vision: making artful use from what’s at hand. This production makes artful use of art and natural history. It’s a magnificent experience.

“Dodo” runs until November 19 at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. For more information, click here.


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