A shot of Kentucky bourbon was offered to me almost immediately after walking into the Salem United Methodist Church for the inaugural performance of Pones Inc.’s Between 3 and 5.
When I accepted this generous offer, I had no idea that I had already begun immersing myself into the quasi-interactive world that me and the rest of the audience would soon be thrust into.
Between 3 and 5 is a multi-disciplinary series of vignettes, combining choreography, acting, music, and pre-recorded audio to represent all that goes on during the most intimate hours of any given day — that time between 3 and 5 a.m.
Three self-described “band members” began the performance by serenading the audience with beautiful harmonies of simple lyrics over layered droning chords. All the while, a dense artificial fog blanketed the room.
After their crescendo, the house lights turned on and a previously unseen performer came centerstage and loudly announced that it was “closing time.”
Cast members who had been inconspicuously standing among the audience promptly corralled us against the room’s walls and encouraged us to sit down before they rushed the stage.
This was the first of many instances where the proverbial fourth wall between artist and audience was not only broken but obliterated by the performers. It’s no coincidence that the number four also just so happens to be between three and five.
Seven performers now laid restlessly, acting out the all-too-relatable process of checking your phone incessantly as anxious thoughts intrude into your psyche.
One is never truly able to settle down for long in the world of Between 3 and 5; just as the cast’s performative bouts of insomnia ended, the audience was abruptly ushered into various rooms throughout the first floor of the church.
At this point, every audience member’s experience became unique, and I was left wondering when, or if, the crowd would reunite as a whole again.
What followed the audience’s separation is a torrent of passionate scenes personifying the primal fears, lasting traumas, and damaging self-medication that unfortunately disturb so many of us in these most visceral hours.
Between 3 and 5 is not for the faint of heart. Even when the audience is brought back together to watch a sensual dance number, it is soundtracked by a perversely aggressive instrumental with boisterous bass and abrasively sharp synths that could have come from Yeezus’ cutting room floor.
After a mini rave — glow sticks and all — emboldened all willing participants to join the dance floor, the ever-shifting boundary between the artists and the audience was nonexistent.
Once the party was over, the room went dark and everyone was asked to melt into the floor with their eyes closed. Soon, we all awoke together.
After touring through a whirlwind of humanity’s most intimate emotions, we were suddenly forced to regain our composure and return to the real world.
As we do every day.