Apr 20, 2011

My First Tast of Immersive Theatre

Preface: I don't normally do non-art related posts, but I had to make an exception for this case :)

I got off the elevator, I turned a corner, and I was in the hallway of an empty household. I knew I was in for an exciting evening when I entered a dimly lit room containing an empty bassinet and tangled baby dolls hanging in a cultish like pattern from the ceiling, hovering just a foot above the cradle. Slightly freaked out I went back into the hallway where I happened upon a pregnant woman hastily packing a suitcase in her bedroom. She slammed the suitcase shut, loosely draped a coat over her shoulder and down the hall she ran. Curious, I followed behind. I ducked into a tight passageway and then suddenly found myself in a hotel lobby, where a strange older woman was attempting to give the pregnant woman a glass of milk. A forceful ballet suddenly took place between the old woman, the pregnant woman, and the hotel bellhop, who was trying his best to prevent the pregnant woman from drinking the (what I later found out was poisoned) milk. 

This and other strange, frightening, exhilarating, and sometimes repulsive scenes unfolded during a performance of “Sleep No More” last night. It is easily one of the most engaging and intoxicating theatrical experiences that I’ve ever has the pleasure of witnessing. The show itself takes place in a five story warehouse, filled with rooms intricately decorated in 1930s style fashion. The story itself is loosely based on Shakespeare's Macbeth. The audience is given the opportunity to freely roam throughout the warehouse. In any given room, characters in the show may randomly enter, act out a scene, and quickly exit, prompting you to either stay put and see what happens next or follow a character to their next destination (which will likely lead you to another intense scene and other unexpected surprises). The beauty of the show is that you can completely customize your adventure, and every audience member comes out of the show with a unique experience that they can then share with friends and fellow theatergoers. 

The timing of scenes was impeccable. Characters might act out a scene in a room for a solid 20 minutes, leave the scene, and arrive in perfect synchronization with other characters in another room on a separate floor of the warehouse. The production design, another impressive aspect of the event left not a single detail out of place. I remember sitting at a nurses desk, flipping through papers on a clipboard, and sure enough, there were detailed notes on Lady Macbeth’s stay in the psych ward on the fifth floor hospital. 

I will say that the only disappointing aspect of the show was a lack of closure. I became invested in certain characters that in the end, I never had the chance to see how their individual stories resolved. This in essence was also part of the fun because it prompted heavy conversation amongst my friends once the show was over. We sat down for a good 45 minutes over dinner discussing what we saw, attempting to flesh out the story gaps for each other.  I’m ready to purchase tickets for a second viewing. I want to experience that world again. It’s like wanting to fall asleep so you can relive a dream in the hopes of developing a deeper understanding of it. 

If you find yourself in NYC before the end of June, you are doing yourself a serve disservice by not seeing this show. 

No comments: