Recently this LA Girl Around Town went to New York to visit fellow GirlAT, Mary. As amazing as the West Coast is, there are just some things it doesn’t offer – like amazing theatrical experiences. Despite raves about Broadway shows, what I was most excited to experience was Sleep No More, a production in Chelsea created by a London-based theater group called Punchdrunk.
Based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, the show is completely immersive and extra-sensory. From the moment you arrive at the theater you immediately become a guest of The McKittrick Hotel. It has a formal, 1930′s air, from the doorman dressed in a tuxedo to the ornate red and gold bar serving champagne on ice. One by one individuals, broken up from the people they arrived with, are taken into the hotel based on the playing card you received at the entrance. Mary and I were reunited after three hours when the show was over.
During our time apart we shared the same space but had vastly different experiences. The idea is to explore the hotel’s many spaces: from a room full of bathtubs to a cemetery. You do this while wearing a large white mask and in complete silence. With anonymity on your side, opening drawers, picking up telephones, and eating candy from jars was encouraged rather than taboo. Eventually amidst exploration of the space actors appeared. They didn’t speak, but they commanded attention from everyone in the room. Then the real fun began.
The best way to describe the next stage is ‘choose your own adventure’. Do you follow an actor and watch what he does in the sewing shop? Or run after a woman you see tearing down the hallway with a dozen people in masks in hot pursuit? Later I discovered Mary spent significant amounts of time following the lead of a pregnant woman. I only saw that woman hours later at the dramatic conclusion of the night. I tracked various actors, most notably a woman in a lush red ballgown who captivated me. She ate raw meat and lip-synced to the creepiest version of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” ever. All the while this woman stared out into space, not seeing the sea of people in white masks all around, though our presence was strong. The tension in every room – be it watching a wife wash her naked husband in a bath tub or two men balletically fighting in a bar made entirely of cardboard – was thick. I’ve never been so fully present in any performance.
Oh, by the way: Many celebrities have talked about going to see Sleep No More, their interest piqued in the talent behind 360-degree performances, as much as for the ability to be anonymous for a few hours. We explored the hotel with Ewan McGregor who we spotted pre-masks at the entrance, making even this jaded LA girl giddy.
Let’s Be Honest: Sleep No More has become a must-see with a run lasting well over a year thanks to repeat participants. The experience inside the hotel doors is so unique you can attend over and over without having the same experience twice. Try it once – you’ll be hooked.
Accessorize: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as you run around The McKittrick Hotel. Here are a few options to consider: