Total Immersion

In more new shows, the passive theatergoer is passé

Muhammed Muheisen / AP for TIME

In the Immersive play Natasha, Pierre and the Great Commet of 1812 , the audience gets dinner with a twist: actors weave through the crowd and get up close and personal.

Making a musical out of War and Peace might seem like a fool's errand. All those pages. All those subplots. All those Russian names. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy's cheeky pop-rock version of (at least a portion of) Tolstoy's novel, helps out on the name front with a cute opening number that introduces the characters with primer-like directness ("Helene's a slut, Anatole's hot, Sonya's good ..."). The show gets playgoers into the mood by seating them at tables in a faux Russian supper club and feeding them borscht and blini. And it scatters the action everywhere:...

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