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Deepest Man Hits Bottom

The doctor is out: Spencer Barros in Deepest Man.
The doctor is out: Spencer Barros in Deepest Man.
Juliano Chiquetto

Immersion is a goal shared by free-divers — intrepid souls who venture underwater without the aid of breathing equipment — and experimental theater artists. But Deepest Man, a new multimedia piece by James Scruggs, mistakes metaphors of immersion for actual depth.

After losing his wife in an aquatic accident, Dr. Hazzardville Sommers (Spencer Barros) plunges into delusions, concocting a fuzzy pseudo-religion that fetishizes free-diving and likens channel surfing to spiritual questing (he finds oracular meanings in the pronouncements of a canceled talk-show host). Now committed to some kind of institution, the Doc preaches the gospel of total immersion.

Aided by 3LD's superlative technical resources and Grant McDonald's sumptuous video design, director Mark Rayment stages some arresting images: Water laps around the audience on three sides; holographic divers paddle through the air.

But striking visuals can't make up for a florid, cliché-plagued script. They don't take us deeper inside the Doc's turbulent inner life; they just illustrate it. Often the projections disappear entirely, leaving us with the ravings of an easily dismissed loon and a collection of fellow mental patients straight from central casting (with silly accents to match). The weirdness is clearly all in his head, and so we stay on shore, unwilling to dive in.

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