Jul 31, 2012

~ sleep no more ny

If you've heard of Sleep No More, thought about seeing it, and are kicking yourself for missing it, consider yourself the luckiest person on the planet. Although I'll admit my daughter, the one who convinced me to go to this function in the first place, loved the experience, I did not. Breathe No More would better describe my encounter.

Inspired by MacBeth, Sleep No More is an immersive theatrical production put on by the British company Punchdrunk, where the play literally happens around the audience as they move freely and choose their own path through the story. I will try to summarize the evening held at the McKittrick Hotel for you as honestly as I can.

We began in the basement of a hot, dark building, in a line, where we were required to check our belongings. Once inside, we were called in groups by numbers, escorted into a smaller, warmer room, and were instructed to put on our masks. Yes, all "guests" are required to wear masks. (Think Phantom of the Opera.) While waiting, masked, in smaller/darker/hotter room, a shrieking alarm sounded accompanied by a blinding flashing light. We weren't sure if this was part of the experience, but ultimately realized it was a fire alarm. A Disney-type Haunted Mansion character, our host in the smaller/darker/hotter/room, was equally flustered and finally allowed us to enter, surely a de-dramatized version of the actual entrance procedure, but with an added element of drama with the unaddressed possibility of an actual fire.

The five floor, hundred room maze is open for guests to freely roam and explore, all the while being distracted by actors and actresses (unmasked) who partake in odd and disturbing performances. The seasoned guests are quickly detected as they scurry from room to room in search of the characters, and stand inches away from them hoping to be mistaken for part of the show. To their dismay, the phantom masks give them away. 

The heat factor became increasingly prominent, what with the sheer number of bodies together with the 100 degree weather outside, the traipsing upstairs and down, and running from room to room, all contributing to a particularly intense body odor problem. Also noted was the unusual amount of gas being passed throughout the two - three hour experience. As in human gas... aka farts. Perhaps the masks provided a false sense of confidence.

Did I mention there is no talking? That's right, neither guests nor actors utter a single word the entire evening. This rule is upheld thanks to guards (black masks to distinguish from our white) who quickly reprimand guests who might attempt to communicate in the quietest of whispers. The guest is shushed with a very serious and firm finger to the mouth. I experienced the shushing firsthand as I attempted to signal my readiness to go to my daughter. 

I continued (silently) to plan a solo escape from the hellish nonsense as I wandered aimlessly from room to room, floor to floor, taking in the strange and unrelated performances, and could not wait to be rid of the heat and smell, and the mask. Finally, after two hours, we departed with opposite reviews of the evening. 
Perhaps it was the 46 versus 22 age difference? Come to think of it, I'm sure I was the oldest person participating. 

Despite my review, I am down with talent. I get it. However, I would prefer enjoying said talent on a stage, minus masks, plus air-conditioning.
The play experience has been sold out and extended for months. Clearly, my review does not match up with others, most notably my daughter's.

Read the NYT Theater Review here.

Photo credits here, here, and here.

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WWL said...

What an interesting experience. Your blog is always so interesting.

Acquired Objects said...

Jan you aren't alone it doesn't sound like my kind of thing either.

Our French Inspired Home said...

Well that sounds unique. Sorry to hear you were shushed. Maybe your daughter could write a review from her point of view since she liked it so much?

The enchanted home said...

Man you have me laughing so early in the morning...good way to start my day. OK, so you konw you have lots of company! My good friend who begged me to see it (but after hearing some "bizarre" reviews) and knowing how severely claustrophbic I am and how I get freaked out by being next to hordes of people in small spaces, knew this was "not my thing" but I wish I would recite some of the reviews of my friends...ALL of whom thought it was the biggest crock out there, someone said its like Candid Camera is playing a big test to see how many people they can coherce into thinking and saying " this is art". Wouldn't that be funny if it was some giant experiment? One of my friends and husband walked out after 30 min. she said it was like being in a and I quote "hot smelly torture chamber of very strange bedfellows". So Jan.....you are not alone! Funny review, hope there were cooler (literally and figureatively and more satisfying experiences) sounds like there were!!

Kathy said...

Well that was interesting, and not good interesting, weird to say the least. OK you have sold me I won't be one of those in line. I don't do hot well at all.
You were a trooper to have had a breakdown in the middle of the tub room. I am afraid I would have left screaming from the room....and not good screaming.
Thanks for entertaining me so early with my coffee, laughter is the best.
You know you could have made a mini series of your experience.
To have kept us on the edge of our seat. Now I must turn up my AC thermostat, the hotter you got the lower it got.

Thanks for sharing the laughter.

David & Dianne said...

Even you could not have convinced me to go anywhere near that place much less go inside!!! Does my granddaughter need counseling to enjoy this kind of nightmare. I also would love to see her review this!

Leslie said...

I am claustrophobic and the warm rooms with masks would not work for me. I like the list at the top and enjoyed your description of this event. I would agree.. not my thing either!


christy said...

This sounds like the show from hell. Haven't heard of it and when we head to NY in the fall this will be at the top of my list of what NOT to see. Sorry you had to endure it, sounds like torture. Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

And you had to pay to experience heat and flatulence?

cindy said...

I am laughing out loud, love your honesty. I would HATE this show. I have actually left at intermission and waited for my husband and friends in the lobby rather than watch an annoying ridiculous play!

Missi Smith said...

When I first started reading your post today, I was starting to think "I don't really know this gal like I thought I did"? I didn't see the negative coming ...but God - I am so glad it did. All is now right in the world again.

It kinda reminds me of that weird Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie ... can't remember the name.

Not my thing - AT ALL and my husband would have had me "committed" if I ever brought him. You are a brave girl lasting as long as you did. crazy!