Hollywood Gothique
LA Theatre GothiqueSolo Performance

Hollywood Fringe 2024: Did I Just Join a Cult?

Taking audiences on a harrowing journey through a dark realm of uncertainty and confusion, Did I Just Join a Cult? is a solo show that reduces its format to the bare minimum: it’s basically one man, sitting and relating a disturbing narrative. How audiences react depends on how much they know about the narrator and his subject matter. Is he telling a story he made up or describing a real experience? If the latter, is his experience real or artificial? In short, is he like Michael Douglas’s character in The Game, who cannot tell whether he is truly in danger or simply playing a role in a very convincing simulation? The more you know, the easier it will be to grapple with the question posed in the play’s title; however, ambiguities remain, and you answer will be contingent upon each new fact revealed until the very end…

After a short clip from HBO’s Westworld series (setting up the concept of people living out a lifelike simulation of reality), television write Lawrence Meyers (Andromeda, The Outer Limits) sits at a table in an unadorned theatre and speaks for an hour, rising only once or twice to mimic some action he is describing. Anything flashier would be a distraction from his engrossing story. Having lost his muse, he seeks to renew the spark during the Halloween season by signing up to participate in a mysterious piece of immersive theatre (while admitting that he barely knows what immersive theatre is). He finds himself meeting a small group of strangers in a sketchy area downtown, then being blind-folded and loaded into a van taking him to an unknown destination, where he undergoes what feels like forced indoctrination into a cult. The experience is so convincing that he begins to wonder whether the “immersive theatre” is merely a front for an actual cult – a paranoid fear that feels uncomfortably credible when one of the “characters” says, “Please tell me you didn’t come here for immersive theatre. So did I, and I’ve been trapped here for 5 months!”

The first half of Did I Just Join a Cult? is largely a suspense-thriller as we wonder whether Meyers will get out at all, much less get out unharmed. He does, but the experience haunts him. He conducts online research to convince himself that the show was indeed fiction, then returns for a second run-through, only to find the experience has been personally customized for him. At some point, the distinction between real cult and immersive theatre blurs, as he feels himself becoming more and more involved with the show/cult, engaging both with its members and with those in the audience. He now feels a part of something, a sort of small, esoteric society with knowledge and experience known only to a select few. One way or another, is that not, in some sense, a cult?

What follows may feel like spoilers, but it is all publicly available knowledge.

Meyers is a real person, and the show he attended, The Tension Experience, is a real thing. However much of what he describes is absolutely truth versus dramatic license, the most important aspect of his story is the mental journey he describes as he tries to make sense of what happened to him, which turns out to be a life-changing experience.

This is a key point, because as intriguing as Did I Just Join a Cult? is, for most of its length it feels as if it is heading toward inevitable anticlimax. Either the cult is real, or it is not. We know that, so either resolution will be expected. Maybe Meyers will attempt a double whammy: it was all a dream – but then he wakes up to find it was true! Instead, he reaches a dramatic conclusion that satisfies regardless of which way you were leaning on the reality-vs-illusion question. Either way, if The Tension Experience ever comes back to L.A., you will find yourself wanting to buy a ticket.

Did I Just Join a Cult?

Rating Scale

1 – Poor
2 – Mediocre
3 – Good
4 – Great
5 – Excellent

Absolutely engrossing one-man show about an immersive theatrical experience that feels more than a little too authentic, leaving its narrator to wonder whether he has indeed joined a cult.

Did I Just Join a Cult? wraps up its run at Hollywood Fringe Fest with a final performance on Sunday June 30 at 8:30 pm in The Hobgoblin Playhouse (Main Space), 6440 Santa Monica Blvd. Update: has been scheduled for an encore performance on July 8 at 8:30pm. Get More information here.

Credits: Written & Performed by Lawrence Meyers.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.