I am somewhere in midtown Manhattan, in the 20s near the High Line. I am watching MacBeth murder Banquo with a brick, put on his suit jacket, and sprint out. I follow. My nose is sweating under my mask, it’s dark and hard to see, and I end up losing him around a corner. But I notice an interesting (and more sparsely attended) interaction going on across the hall between one of the witches and the god-fearing tailor, and veer over to watch that. Why does she have a key around her neck? What does it unlock? And who is that lost-looking young woman with the suitcase? Welcome to the McKittrick Hotel, home to Sleep No More, an immersive theater experience that just might be New York’s best show and worst-kept secret. With zero advertising, they’ve been able to consistently sell out shows at rates of $75 to $95 per ticket, with high repeat visits, some up to seven or eight times.
It had been something I’d been meaning to see since it opened, but hadn’t quite found the right time/friends/money over the last two years. But, on hearing rumors that the British-based group that put it on will finish up their run in June and head back across the pond, I knew it was something I had to jump on.
I went last Sunday with a friend, though we were quickly separated in the opening rush of action. This was actually a preferable outcome, as we were able to compare notes afterward (“You didn’t see the strobe-light witch rave?” “You didn’t see Lady MacBeth and the out-damn-spot?”)
The design was amazing, building out a world of shops, bars, cemeteries, forests, and darkly-haunted nurseries into five stories of warehouse. The light and sound had a sculptural quality typically limited to installation art. Being as site-specific as it was, the result was a mind-blowing union of set design and choreography: dancers would haul each other up to run on the walls and vault over pool tables, or slither through exposed stone windows. The performances were wordless, physically-demanding, and just this side of otherworldly.
If you’re in New York in the next month, go. Take friends. Get there early. Wear shoes you can sprint in. Consider taking a lock-picking class. Read the Sparknotes for MacBeth and watch Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Practice running up flights of stairs at full speed. And remind yourself that even then, you’re not going to see everything, but you’re going to see great things. And perhaps, if you are lucky and daring, you’ll get to be the one that gets taken aside, ushered into the locked room, and trusted with a dark secret. If not, well, now you understand why people are coming back half a dozen times.
Score: FIVE OUT OF FIVE BLOODY DAGGERS
Sleep No More runs at The McKittrick Hotel, 530 West 27th Street, New York, NY. Running time varies depending on entrance time, but is between 2 and 3 hours. Performances begin nightly between 7 and 8pm, with additional late night performances Friday and Saturday starting between 11pm and midnight. Tickets must be purchased in advance at http://www.sleepnomorenyc.com/