“Fortune Favors the Bold…”
During our jaunt to New York, I heard the experience at “Sleep No More” was something not to be missed. When questioning what to expect from this show I was told “go into it with an open mind and get lost in all it has to offer”. British theater company Punchdrunk have truly outdone themselves with an interesting twist to this interactive show unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
Enter the McKittrick Hotel and imagine this is what the Haunted Mansion would look like had Stanley Kubrick designed it. Waltz over to the bar while 1930s jazz melodies play so welcoming you almost forget being surrounded by blood red velvet walls. A hostess saunters around the room checking in on her newly arrived guests and a gentlemen holding a martini glass introduces the Jazz group on stage. Once you check-in to the McKittrick, a playing card is handed to each guest and I assume the card will reveal the entrance time into the hotel. The anticipation of what awaits you inside is an adrenaline rush like no other.
A dinging of the Martini glass and off you go to start the adventure within the McKittrick. Before stepping into the elevator, each guest is gifted a Venetian style mask (pictured above). It is the way to be distinguished from the actors. What would seem strange at first immediately is forgotten as putting on the mask transforms you into another character in the story. “Fortune Favors the Bold”, our host states as we enter an elevator. Humming sounds of a moving lift taking us to our final destination…or so we think. It abruptly stops on what appears to be the 2nd floor. Doors open and my brother in law begins to walk out into darkness when our host immediately shuts the door to the elevator. “Ummm, he is alone, what is happening?” whispered by the remaining 16 guests, appalled at what we just witnessed. “There will be no more words spoken within these walls…please enjoy your stay”, our host beckons and off we go up to another level (6 in total) to see what the McKittrick Hotel has planned ahead.
If you are going to visit and don’t want any spoilers of what to expect during your stay, I highly advise you not to read any further. Heed this warning though. Those who venture into the darkness alone, receive private tours, shows, and gifts from the inhabitants. Don’t forget these words spoken right before you enter “Fortune Favors the Bold”…
I’m not a fan of spoilers but understand not everyone will have the opportunity to visit the McKittrick. A detail I love about “Sleep No More” is that each person has a completely different experience once inside. When you step out of the elevator, regardless of which floor you land on, you are thrown immediately into the story. While I have made no mention of it before, “Sleep No More” is based off of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth”, although I don’t even think he would recognize this adaptation of it. The entire concept of SNM is to walk around and explore, following any of characters you can find who rarely speak, and run from each scene to the next. Yes, they run, so wear your good tennis shoes if you plan on following the leads (MacBeth, Lady Macbeth). There is no correct way to follow the story and if there is, your guess is as good as mine. If you have forgotten your 10th grade english class, you may not remember the story of “MacBeth”. I highly advise reviewing it before attending. Trust me, you’ll need the refresher course as this adaptation is far from what Shakespeare intended. Albeit dark, seductive, and filled with mystery and magic, “Sleep No More” is a brilliant take on the demise of MacBeth and his lady.
Our group was forced onto the 4th floor when we left the elevator. I must admit, I was a bit nervous since I had no idea of what to expect and truly thought I was going to a traditional Broadway show. I’m so glad this isn’t what I anticipated. Word to the wise, each guest is given 3 hours (2.5 by the time you truly enter) to walk around and explore the McKittrick Hotel. Whatever you do, make sure you are in the Ballroom at the end of the three hours, it’s the big finale and you don’t want to miss it. Before that, find a character(s) and figure your way around the 5 warehouses now transformed into this stunningly designed hotel.
While the many scenes I stumbled upon were fantastic both in direction and acting, I won’t go into detail of what I witnessed that evening. Perhaps some teaser tales put together may be better suited for this review. At one point you will find a couple entranced by an interpretive dance as they seduce each other…in a bathtub filled with blood; a strange but mysterious orgy to the soundtrack of a techno club from the early 2000s; a secret room filled from top to bottom with candy; an ominous cemetery with no graves instead filled with statues that appear to watch your every move. Yes, the McKittrick is every designers dream come true. It also obtains the story of a man so wrought with guilt that he must keep killing in order to remain king. Along the way, three witches, friends, and his love all journey through the wrath of insanity. A story so interesting to watch that you happily run from scene to scene to find out what happens next.
For those unknowing, you can touch, open, play with, and investigate anything you see inside the McKittrick. Rarely you will find a room blocked from your grasp and during performances, the actors may even use you as a prop, push you out of the way, or … well I’ll leave your imagination to fill the blank.
At some point I grew tired of running and wanted to try something different. I journeyed into an unknown room that led me to a series of offices. I was delighted to learn I could explore the McKittrick like a private detective throughout all of the endless hallways, rooms, offices, ballrooms, and bedrooms I could find. I’m still unsure of what one room has to do with the story but then again, I’m under the spell of the McKittrick. While exploring all of the rooms, I realize it is a wonderfully placed distraction. Those Punchdrunk guys know what they are doing because they know I will want to come again to see more. No matter how often you search, you may never find everything, and let us not forget there are other things to see here. Three hours goes very fast during your stay.
While I was not chosen, a friend was led by a nurse into a secret room. Are the words I mentioned earlier reappearing? “Fortune favors the bold”. In the end, our group had two separate private shows. Both strange but immensely appealing as the nurses led our friends into closed off areas while performing solo acts (one was a lip synch to an unknown 1930s song, the other we are still unraveling). I even overheard a couple describing their solo performance experience at the end of the night. One even left with a small bird charm necklace. The other given a large gold coin.
In the end, the experience at the McKittrick was dark, mysterious, and utterly fantastic. Never before have I left a show so eager to return again for more. I know I didn’t see everything but what I did was splendid. I urge anyone who find themselves in the Chelsea area, especially in the months of September and October, will find themselves yearning for more. Tickets sell out fast so make sure to plan ahead. Journey over to http://www.sleepnomorenyc.com and plan your stay now…you won’t regret it.
This Southern belle is heading back to Atlanta. I’m eagerly awaiting the beginning of my favorite season of the year. Where should I go first?