A Summons Sets the Bar For Downtown Theater

To attend A Summons From the Tinker to Assemble the Membership in Secret at the Usual Place, audiences wait in an alley off of Maryland Parkway before being led through a rubble-strewn warehouse to the “hideout.” It’s a fitting opening to a creative and compelling night of theater.

The play is based on M, Fritz Lang’s 1931 film about a serial child-killer haunting the streets of Berlin, pursued by both police and criminals. The beggars, whores and thieves capture the murderer and put him on “trial,” which is where A Summons begins. The actors move in and out of the audience, offering their reasons for death or reprieve, re-creating scenes of the crimes and the chase. It’s immersive theater, but none of it feels “stagy” or forced.

Their leader, the Tinker, a Hollywood-style gangster in a pinstriped suit, is in full control … but soon enough, as doubts surface and debate continues, conflicts arise and he begins to lose his grip. A wino named Hankel is pressed into service for the defense and turns from inarticulate drunk to voice of conscience and reason. Beatrice the prostitute moves from compliance with the Tinker’s authority to challenging it. And, at the end, the audience is invited to participate in deciding the accused’s fate.

We go to theater for those moments when the story, the staging and the performances all combine, when a sort of emotional electricity hangs in the air and makes us hold our breath. Many plays take their bows without evoking a single one of these moments: A Summons has several. If Downtown Las Vegas truly wants to compete with the Strip, it must offer entertainment hipper than Cirque shows and edgier than The Smith Center’s Broadway offerings. A Summons is a play that visitors from New York, Los Angeles or Chicago can see and tell their friends back home they saw a good show—without adding the words “for Vegas.”

A Summons from the Tinker to Assemble the Membership in Secret at the Usual Place

Thurs.-Sun. through Nov. 1, 8 p.m. (2 p.m. Sun.), $25, A Public Fit Theatre Company, 100 S. Maryland Pkwy., APublicFit.org.

Vegas Seven