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‘Game’ shows prep for Off Broad bows

Interactive theater pieces set for fall

What will it be tonight at the theater, “Game Show” or “Lifegame”?

Two interactive theater pieces — dare we call them plays? — are opening within 13 days of each other in Off Broadway theaters this fall. “Game Show,” which bills itself as “a new interactive comedy play,” has its world premiere Oct. 10 at 45 Bleecker, a small venue that recently housed the rap musical “Bomb-itty of Errors” and previously had been a lumber yard.

Written by Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton, “Game Show” turns its theatergoers into a TV gameshow’s audience, with members being picked to participate as contestants.

Time in the spotlight

“Lifegame” will open Sept. 28 in an equally out of the way small site, the Jane Street Theater, which previously housed such edgy fare as Eric Bogosian’s “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” and the long-running “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” At every performance of “Lifegame,” a subject is interviewed about his or her life. The seven-member cast, from Britain’s Improbable Theatre company, then improvise scenes from the subject’s life.

Keith Johnstone created the show, and when “Lifegame” had its U.S. premiere last spring at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse, the Los Angeles Times reviewer noted that preview performances profiled a retired high school principal, a Native American who raises horses on a reservation and a cancer survivor who teaches learning-disabled children.

“Lifegame” was first presented in 1998 at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendall, England.

Finn, who also produces “Game Show,” said there were absolutely no similarities in the two projects. “Except that they both have the word ‘show’ in their titles,” he added.

The producer-writer never envisioned the production on Broadway. “I also heard that rumor, but never was it going to Broadway. I wanted to make it intimate, where the odds are better for audience members to win grand prizes.”

Finn said the project had been in development since 1996, “prior to the gameshow craze, which has been exciting for us.” He said four workshops were necessary to develop the trivia-based game with its three rounds of play.

As for some TV org bringing “Game Show” to the tube, Finn doesn’t rule it out. “That’s a possibility. It’s a new gameshow.”

Willing guests

David Stone, who currently has “The Vagina Monologues” and “Fully Committed” running Off Broadway, is producing “Lifegame” with a consortium of other producers, and was not available for comment.

However, Bob Fennell of the Publicity Group, which handles “Lifegame” as well as “Game Show,” noted the shows’ fundamental differences. He called the former theater piece preselective, stressing that the subject of “Lifegame” is a “perfectly willing guest at every performance. The excitement is not only watching the performers improvise but seeing the reactions of the guest, who is interviewed throughout the show.”

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