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The Magnetic Field is one of Asheville's newest and hippest theatres. Located in the River Arts District, this café/bar/theatre provides a unique outlet for some of Asheville's brightest talents and most innovative creative endeavors. Their current production of Asheville local John Crutchfield's The Labyrinth follows a young protagonist Chris (Ira Sargent) as he descends into the underworld in search of his best friend. It is a production that will leave you eager to see more of what The Magnetic has to offer.
The Magnetic Field's space is essentially divided into two closely adjacent rooms: a café/bar and a modest theatre. Though the playing space is somewhat compact, it seems, remarkably, versatile enough to handle whatever the company throws at it. As a unique atmospheric quirk, the white noise of good-humored bar talk hums just outside the theatre door, which for me only seemed to highlight the intimacy of the audience-performance relationship. It's like sharing a little secret. It also allows the audience to be absorbed in the world of the play while simultaneously being reminded of "the real world," which held particular significance in this production's realm of psychological and metaphysical oddities.
The Labyrinth is the final installment of a trilogy written by Crutchfield. It is a compelling journey that requires some decompression of thought after viewing. Several fellow audience members quietly lamented not thoroughly understanding the piece, though as pointed out in the Asheville Citizen-Times, you don't have to "get it" to really enjoy it. Though much of what Chris encounters in "the inner-outer-underworld" is bizarre and occasionally mind-boggling, the essential message is more than clear in the end. It isn't hard to understand the depth and sincerity of the all-too-often unsung love of friendship, and the boundaries we're often willing to exceed for it.
This is truly an ensemble production, artfully directed, designed, performed, and written, with everyone obviously pulling his or her own weight to create something really special. You can't help but get the feeling that the people at The Magnetic Field actually like and respect each other and truly love what they do.
The Labyrinth runs through April 30. For details, see the sidebar.