Sunday, May 25, 2014

Don't Tell Me About the Queen of the Night

In June, I'm going with some friends to attend a performance of Queen of the Night at the Paramount Hotel in NYC. Shelling out $200, and I have no idea about the show's theme, who's in it, who wrote it, how long it runs or anything else about the production. Apparently there's food and drink involved, so I don't have to eat before the show.

Oh, and there's this photo I saw in The New York Times of a beautiful woman wearing a headdress:

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

But other than that, I don't know a thing about Queen of the Night. Nada. And please don't tell me about the Queen of the Night. I don't want to know. "Immersion theater," meaning shows where you, the audience member, are pulled into the production by the performers, and you walk amongst them and the set and the props, is a very personal thing and can't really be explained. You interact with the show and feel yourself becoming part of the performance.

I've done this before at Sleep No More and Then She Fell, voluntarily wandering around in a state of confusion, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It's the best.

At Sleep No More, an entire four-story building on the West Side has been taken over by the show. Somebody told me that the old Twilo nightclub used to be there, but now it's called the McKittrick Hotel, and it's the site of a nightlong mystery theater where performers rush around dancing and stripping off their clothes and washing off blood in the bath. I've heard the show is partially based on that Scottish play by Shakespeare and partially based on romantic mystery films of the 1930s, which sounds fine, but I've been to Sleep No More four times now and I still don't know what the hell is going on.

The point of the show, as far as I'm concerned, is to:
  • explore dark rooms enveloped in a moody soundscape and a peculiar smell of incense
  • happen accidentally upon a large dinner party in a ballroom with a cast of handsome, despairing characters who all seem to hate and mistrust one another
  • open drawers in ancient wooden desks that contain bits of hair and hospital reports written in spidery script
  • try not to bump into any of the strangers that are wandering around with me (did I mention that all audience members must wear Commedia dell'Arte masks?)
  • eat penny candy out of giant apothecary jars, and 
  • follow a woman I believe to be Lady Macbeth up three flights of stairs to her bedroom

John Singer Sargent's 1889 painting of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

When I went to Then She Fell, my friend led me into the theater building blindfolded, and by the end of the evening I had played games with a white rabbit, drunk tea with a mad hatter and brushed the hair of a pretty girl in a blue dress named Alice. Don't ask me what it all meant....Well, I guess what it meant was that once upon a time, a New York woman ventured out into the night for an immersive theater production and came away having lived a personal experience that engaged all five of her senses.

I love a good story. And after years of seeing plays, watching movies and reading books, if a talented theater company wants to offer me an intriguing assortment of people, places and things to become absorbed in, I'm happy to tell myself a story of my own devising, even if it is non-linear and makes no sense to anybody but me.

2 comments:

BullishOnRhubarb said...

To quote you" I still don't know what the hell is going on." None the less, I enjoyed reading about this.

Joyce Hanson said...

Thanks, Frank! Great to see you in the green and pleasant land of Minnesota, where the rhubarb grows lushly.