Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Huntress Reviews: Clickbait (Awesome Theatre)

Awesome Theatre relentlessly teases me with the well-crafted POV and faux documentary multimedia they incorporate into their shows. Ever since our first visit to one of their productions at PianoFight, Lord Battle and I have been trying to talk them into making a found footage movie and submit it to UFF. Granted, our first show was the first ever found footage horror anthology play, but every visit that followed continued the trend. And their latest production, Clickbait, was no different.

So let me back up. Earlier this month, I and two other Overlook creatures attended the opening night of Clickbait, which had immediately caught my attention when Awesome Theatre revealed their 2020 lineup late last year. Not only did it register on my growing “possibly POV” radar for its name and mock YouTube icon, but it also had a great pitch: “Two internet celebrities spend the night in an abandoned cabin. You won’t believe what happens next.” SOLD.

There’s really no guessing which direction a story with that kind of setup could go (one of the beautiful things about indie productions), and I don’t want to rob anyone of trying to piece the puzzle together as they watch the show, but I still want to tease the hell out of what I can! 

Although unrelated, Clickbait was borne of a segment in Holy Shit That was Scary - I believe it was “Academic Findings” - which features two women in an isolated cabin and was also written by Tonya Narvaez, who is responsible for writing Clickbait in close collaboration with director Claire Rice (Let's Kill Jessica). I will say that the cabin setting in Clickbait was on par, if not a step better than HSTWS. And the super dim lighting made me appropriately uneasy, claustrophobic even. 

The tiny taxidermy deer heads felt like a whimsical pairing with the painting on the other wall, which was, well… ominous.

The show starts out with a compilation of videos from the internet celebrities who will be accepting the challenge of spending the night in an abandoned cabin, their perky mannerisms, and some of their past challenges. A quick read between the lines confirms that one of the duo takes the lead in decision making, while the other is either a reluctant or involuntary participant. Eyebrows are raised…

This show has a necessarily bare bones cast made up of BryBry and Beckah (the talent), Owen (the producer), and Sam (a newly hired camera operator), and it really allows you to get to know what each of them is like on and, more importantly, off camera. And while it's hard not to jump to conclusions about these characters solely based on first impressions, it's even harder to watch their true nature play out. Especially with the unflinching performances of the actors.

Featuring: Samuel Barksdale, Caroline Boyll, Carly Van Liere, and Jorden Charley-Whatley

The show starts with the entire team arriving at the cabin that will be their home for the next 24 hours. They record spooky teaser videos about how they’re going to play flashlight tag and record their night… only to find out that their backup batteries had not been charged immediately after the camera stops rolling. At this point, nerves are already tense, and it's only the beginning of the night! 

I could tell you all about the varied relationship dynamics, shady secrets, and personal revelations, but it's just not the same as sitting in that audience and seeing it for yourself. This story stays compelling from the first taste of glimpse of YouTube content, all the way to its explosive conclusion. And you still have a couple of opportunities to see it unfold. 

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