What goes on inside that little storefront theater? We dare you to find out. Scroll on down.

A quick primer for the Ochre virgin

The Ochre House Experience. What’s it like?

The venue is small enough that if you hold the door open too long, you’ll be scolded for letting the AC out. The entertainment is big enough, that you’ll ponder the messages, deliberate and deconstruct the plot, and hum the catchiest songs for days after you leave.

Warmly greeted, you take your playbill and seek a comfy vantage point in the intimate space. You’re anticipating a story. A story that begins before any actor appears on stage.

As you take your seat, you feel you’ve wandered into an immersive art installation. As with every Ochre production, the walls have become canvas for some of Dallas’ most talented muralists. A deep indigo fog-shrouded forest leads into a stifling Victorian drawing room presaging some perverse activity. (You don’t know it, but these same walls only recently evoked the effervescent color and brilliant Mediterranean light of Picasso’s Malaga home.)

The peculiar furniture and props that are already on stage compel questions. Why is there a shower-curtained footed bathtub stage left? What do the weapons mounted on the wall suggest? Who sits in a chair that tall? You recognize that’s a bed (but later it folds out to become a car).

The lights go down. In the darkness, you hear the players shuffling onto the stage. When the lights go up you notice a special “character” stage-right: a small orchestra.

The Ochre House Theater storefront on Exposition Boulevard.

They’re in costume and makeup, clearly part of the narrative and obviously supporting those moments when dialog morphs into song and dance.

But you immediately discover their heightened responsibility of creating an environment of sound. Is that an approaching storm? I feel uneasy. Did someone open a door offstage? Is this what a tantrum without words sounds like? Was that a musical metaphor, just now?

The lighting tells a story, too, enlarging the small space. Shadows reveal the darkness in a character’s heart. A stage flooded with white light accents an epiphany.

And, of course, stories attain life from a brilliant ensemble of characters. Sometimes you’ve met them: Nikolai Tesla, Charles Manson, Frida Kahlo, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson. But you’ve never seen them like this (breaking into song or interacting with puppets is only a start). Other times you’re presented with captivating strangers, always complex and flawed and surprising.

Feet away from the actors, you absorb every subtle gesture, every nuanced expression from veteran professionals. Every production is a comedy, a tragedy, and a musical, imaginatively rolled into a glorious night of entertainment you can only get from live theater well conceived and performed. You owe it to yourself.