To take part in an interactive theatrical experience is perhaps rare, albeit, noteworthy when done correctly. Rarely do people rave about a show without much explanation as to why the show was phenomenal. Usually, one who raves about a show can attribute it to the musicality, the acting, or the beautiful stage construction. Several key standards play into what makes a good theatrical experience, and I am hardly a critic on matters of the theater. Though there are standards that seem to be pretty universally understood among those who are and are not theatrically inclined.
Enter: The McKittrick Hotel, Sleep No More. Nevermind the fact that it’s been running for almost two years now, audiences’ reactions are still just as flamboyant and gush-worthy as they were at its birth.
Dimly lit from outside and within, the entrance of the theatrical hotel leads one down a long hallway. Following nothing but candles in corners of hallways and dark masked people, the eventual starting point is the Manderley Bar. Gorgeous decor aside, there’s something to be said about the constant roles that each of the employees at the bar seem to fulfill. With a 1920s theme, all the staff at the bar play a key role in setting an atmospheric aura from the preliminary moments of entry.
“One Absinthe Cucumber cocktail, darling,” says a charming gentleman bartender. You take a seat and sip your drink. A man begins speaking into the microphone on stage, outlining the details for the night’s activities.
Next thing you know, you’re being ushered into a room with maybe thirty others, all wearing white masks and given detailed yet vague instructions. You are not to remove your mask at any given point, but you are to follow and essentially do whatever else your heart desires throughout the course of the evening. The entire play that you will be participating in follows a twisted version of Macbeth, and you are to choose your own adventure. Six different floors, with everything from a hospital to a grand ballroom. As the night progresses, your access to certain floor is restricted. Time ticks.
When it comes to details of what one may actually experience on the journey, it’s best to not divulge too much. After all, the experience is unique to each audience member. Here’s what can be said: do not follow anything but your own heart. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t orient yourself with the hotel when you’re dropped off on a floor. One might follow several groups of people for the first half hour to try and get a feel for what’s at stake, what the atmosphere is like. The goal is not to get the entire picture. Entering with that mindset will only frustrate you. You get one angle, choose it carefully and listen to your heart.
You might encounter a frazzled Macbeth, having just killed someone who pulls you in close to his face and whispers into your ears indecipherable Shakespearean jargon. You might not though. For you, the height of your night might just be the candy shop where you take a break from screaming women and indulge in candy at your leisure.
Enter with an open mind to not only physical discomfort, but mental. Never will you find yourself in a position of danger, but your mind may try to scare you into thinking that you are.