“Sleep No More”, No CliffsNotes Required

sleep

Imagine going to a play where you felt you were only getting half of the story. Now imagine having the freedom to crawl on stage and be immersed in what you had only been watching a few minutes before, invited to even go backstage to touch and smell props, to become one with this play that has ceased to be a play and has somehow become something real. That’s the best way I can think of to describe “Sleep No More”. It’s a 4D experience. The premise is likened to live-action Shakespeare with extra bits thrown in, but it’s so much more complex than that. While the Bard’s tale of “Macbeth” is, indeed, acted out, there are also several different tales being told in the vein of “choose your own adventure”.

“Sleep No More” has had a successful presence in NYC’s Chelsea district since December 2011, though I wasn’t aware of it. In fact, I’m sure most people weren’t, which boggles the mind as every single showing sells out on a nightly basis. It’s literally one of those clichéd best kept secrets of the city, though, sadly, it isn’t permanent. My friend, Roxy, was the one who convinced me to go despite the admittedly steep price. We, along with another friend (Mary Beth), went to the 11:30pm showing on a Friday night to try and alleviate said price ($90 at that point). By the end of the evening, I heartily declared that it had been worth every penny and I’d be more than willing to do it again!

The most fascinating thing is that everyone’s experience will be different. Even your own experience will differ if you go multiple times, as Roxy was able to attest. They took an old hotel, the McKittrick, fleshed it out into the warehouses beside it, and filled it with a fantasy world of murder, mystery, seduction, dance, fear, love, and psychosis. And tantamount to being absorbed in this world are the two main rules of “Sleep No More”: 1) Never remove the Venetian theatre mask you are given at the beginning and, 2) Never speak once you enter what is essentially a 3 building, 6 floor maze.

You are suddenly given the freedom to openly stare at a marital spat as it leads to a marital bedding or chase a murderer down a stairway as they run to rinse the blood of their sin away; the mask protects you from feeling responsible, and accountable, and self-conscious. I rifled through the drawers of strangers, read letters certainly not addressed to me, played spectator in extremely intimate (read: naked) moments, lost my friends in a graveyard, and lost MYSELF in the psych ward.

Intense, man. INTENSE. It all culminates in one shocking and gloriously disturbing act that I’ll do us all a favor by not spoiling here. Just know, if you DO venture into this dreamy world, it’s essential to listen to the advice of the “assistants” should they silently direct you to a specific location.

Once you’re in the establishment, which begins and ends with the same speakeasy type lounge, you’re free to come and go into the core attraction at will which I thought was amazing. Yeah, you paid a pretty penny but you don’t actually have to leave unless you want to and you’re free to loiter in the lounge drinking Absinthe for as long as you like. Feel like going right back in? Why not?! I did it twice after taking a break because, yes, your feet WILL start to hurt and you will need water (provided freely at the bar) after wandering for a couple of hours.

Part of me bemoaned being unable to take photos inside the “hotel” but, outside the obvious reason of retaining an air of mystery, the restriction also forces one to experience as opposed to document. “Sleep No More” is farther out there than the general population is comfortable with but it definitely manages to spice up the standard night on the town. Plus, it’s reaching the tail end of its placement in NYC! Tickets tend to sell out fast and this is doubly true with the rapid approach of Halloween so, if you’re now tinkering with the idea of attending, get to it! Hey, they’ll even let you keep your mask.

“Sleep No More” is located at The McKittrick Hotel (530 West 27th st) and tickets are now on sale through November 3, 2012.

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