Most of AFTER takes place in near total darkness.
The darkness is intense. So if you're thinking about going to see AFTER, but you experience moderate fear of the dark—don't go. You are not going to be okay with it.
That said, the technical merits of AFTER are jaw-dropping. Obie Award–winning writer and performer Andrew Schneider created this piece to challenge the senses of his audience, and with the help of his team (including his frequent sound designer, Bobby McElver) he created a wonderful play of senses, the loss of those senses, and what comes AFTER.
Much of AFTER's action takes place during coordinated bursts of light that reveal the positions of one or more performers. This gives the appearance of a film montage of still images, but instead these images are created by the performers moving soundlessly on a darkened stage to their next mark. The cues they execute are impressively tight, and the main cast is so practiced that there's no hint of the sprint necessary when they move during the three preceding seconds of darkness. At first, I enjoyed AFTER merely as a spectator trying to see how any of it was technically possible. And then the big darkness hit.
The story of AFTER loosely hangs on the thoughts of a woman dying. Sometimes there are more people than her on the stage, but it's up for debate as to whether any of them are not still her.
My second warning is this: AFTER really hammers on the natural, human fear of death. If you don't want to be constantly reminded of your mortality, AFTER may not be your speed.
I'm not attempting to criticize AFTER for its use of darkness or death. The play dances just close enough to these subjects to be challenging while remaining emotionally survivable (if not enjoyable).
In some places, AFTER can feel like a 90-minute psychedelic drug trip. This is especially true during the big darkness part of the play, where it's easy to enjoy visual hallucinations of the kind you might get in a sensory deprivation tank. Did a ghostly figure slow-motion-run across the stage? Was there a dark figure following it? I'm only 95 percent sure that happened. At one point, I thought I could see the people sitting around me grow to enormous heights, and I couldn't tell if performers were sneaking around the darkened theater or if I was just hearing the uncomfortable shifting of my fellow audience members in their seats.
An alternate title for this article could have been "The True Star of AFTER Is the Perfume/Cologne of the Person Sitting Next to You." I worked hard to ignore the scents of those sitting by me. If you're reading this before the show, perhaps consider the people sitting around you and don't put on a fragrance. Where you're going, the sense of sight takes a back seat. It's your senses of sound and smell that step into the limelight.