Hollywood Gothique
Interactive Plays & Immersive ExperiencesLA Theatre Gothique

Hollywood Fringe Review: The Collective

After three science fiction themed productions (Signals, Abandoned, and The Showroom), Last Call Theatre switches gears with The Collective, which invites audiences to a 1920s wake where rival factions will vie to assume the throne of a murdered mafia don. The story is rather outside of Hollywood Gothique’s usual purview; however, we have reviewed other murder mysteries with no fantasy elements, and fans of the Last Call’s previous trilogy should enjoy another iteration of their clever template, which puts audiences in the middle of the action.

Setup has the murdered don’s mother, Valentina  (Ashley Busenlener), read his will the the assembled mourners, but she stops before revealing his selected successor. The assembled members of The Collective then set about proving each other: jockeying to ascend to the throne and trying to determine whether the don was truly murdered by a rival gang or rather taken out by a disloyal member of The Collective.

As in Last Call Theatre’s previous interactive productions, ticket holders answer an online questionnaire, the result of which aligns everyone with a certain character in the story. This alliance anchors the audience as they navigate backstabbing characters who may or may not be telling the truth; sticking with a single character focuses the experience, turning participants into role-players with an agenda of their own (helping their ally).

The Collective
Elena Scaringe-Peene as Maria Costello, James Bilinsky as Wil Shift, a member of the audience, and Abiane as Sylvia Sterling.

The result is entertaining, with plenty of opportunities for improvised interaction. Unlike some interactive theatre, there is seldom a sense that time is wasted on fruitless pursuits; questions may not yield the expected answers, but the answers will lead to some new line of inquiry, and there is almost always a sense that progress is being made.

As usual, the cast is great, and at times the bond between audience members and their assigned characters achieves something almost like a parasocial relationship. With a blackjack table and a dance interlude, there is more to the evening’s entertainment than interrogation; The Collective is rather like attending a celebratory wake. It does not contain our preferred spirits, but the ingredients still form a satisfying cocktail.

The Collective rating

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

The fourth immersive production from Last Call Theatre, The Collective offers similar interactive strategies in a new setting: the wake of a murdered mafia don in the 1920s. Though lacking the imaginative science fiction themes of their previous work, the change of pace provides an opportunity for period costumes, blackjack, dancing, and sinister fun as audience members become accomplices in trying to help their allies ascend to the vacant throne.

The Cast:

  • Abiane as Sylvia Sterling
  • James Bilinsky as Wil Shift
  • Ashley Busenlener as Valentina Telletino
  • Ethan Kaiser as Ray Glendora
  • Elizabeth Kelly as Evelyn “Evie” Booker
  • Shelby Ryan Lee as Captain Seavey
  • Atlas Alma Molina as Ani Caspar
  • AJ Roa as Etzli
  • Elena Scaringe-Peene as Maria Costello
  • Alexander Whitover as Shepard Rivera
  • Daniel Herman as Swing for Wil & Shepard
  • Kale Hinthorn as Swing for Ray, Seavey & Valentina
  • Audra Magness as Swing for Maria, Sylvia & Etzli
  • Haven Schneider as Swing for Ani & Evie

The Collective continues at Three Clubs as part of the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Fest. Get more info here.

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.