Cult Smash

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By Lily Janiak
For its last two shows, the devised theater ensemble Mugwumpin took theater out of theaters and into a park, a hotel room, and the Old Mint building. For its latest work, The Great Big Also, about America's long and varied history with prophetic movements, the group returns to a more traditional theater space, but repurposing it in very nontraditional ways.

Audiences entering the lobby of Z Space will find a living room and reading area that's a little too wholesome, a little too tidy; it's the waiting room of an extreme sect, a place to browse the group's literature before you're led inside to an event that's part immersive theater, part conversion experience.

Eight guides take great pains to learn audience names and empathize with confusion before separating spectators from their companions and dispersing them inside the theater's disorienting, labyrinthine set (by designer Sean Riley), and giving upbeat, but stern instructions not to move.

The show, which has been in development since 2011 under the direction of Christopher W. White, doesn't just put audiences in the uncomfortable shoes of the about-to-be-converted; it also offers an anatomy of radicalization, showing how a simple disagreement, coupled with hypersensitivity and insecurity, can force a large group to make polarizing decisions many aren't ready to make. 


The Great Big Also starts at 8 p.m. and continues through March 24 at Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F. Admission is $25-$30; call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.zspace.org.

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