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 Posted: Mon Dec 21st, 2009 08:54 pm
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Joined: Thu May 1st, 2008
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If you are in the Boston area (or even if you're not in the Boston area and have to hire a sherpa and a sled team to get here), go to Sleep No More.  It is a production put on through a partnership between the American Repertory Theatre and Punchdrunk (an innovative theatre company out of London).

If you have heard nothing of this show, here is a meagre little description (which I guarantee does not do it justice).  It is an interactive theatre experience which, through the course of a night, tells the story of Macbeth...with a Hitchcockian twist.  When I say interactive, what I really mean is completely immersive.  These people have completely transformed the Old Lincoln School in Brookline into an incredibly detailed labyrinth of set-design.  You walk through it, you even get to touch drawers, rifle through things.  The attention to detail is striking.

The audience members are considered "ghosts" in the world of the characters, each is given a mask which completely hides the face.  Although, bear in mind it is Macbeth, so there is the rare circumstance in which a character might "see" one of the ghosts...and sometimes even more than see.  You are honestly, close enough to the actors to touch them (Although, you are told not to...unless they touch you first, and I was taken by the hand by at least two of them in the course of the evening).

The action of the play is spread out all over the sprawling space, and you get to decide where you will go at what time.  If you see a couple of characters running past, lost in their own story, you may choose to follow them...or you may choose to go somewhere else.  The story loops three times through the night, so you have an opportunity to see different things, but I guarantee you, you still won't be able to see it all (I'll be buying another ticket).

When I heard this "play" was being put on, I knew that I would be going to see it come Hell or high water.  However, I didn't know exactly what to expect.  Would it be kitschy?  Would it be just a haunted house masquerading as theatre?  I was blown away.  I knew that what I had stepped into could be defined as theatre when I found myself in a room, alone, with billowing sheets and a sense of slow, simmering dread. Not the, something-is-gonna-jump-out-and-scare-me dread that you get in a haunted house, but the kind of dread of having suspended disbelief so far that one wonders where reality has ended, and if, perhaps, this is the new reality.  I started to wonder if I was ever going to leave that school, and in a sense, I didn't.  It was a cathartic, changing theatre experience which I still find haunting me from time to time even now, days after.  This production uncovers just how bold you are willing to be as an individual, and I have to say, I was surprised at what I was willing to do once I was down the rabbit hole.  I haven't experienced something so altering since I saw a production of Stoppard's Arcadia for the first time.

The actors in this piece have few lines; most of them have extensive dance backgrounds (you will be amazed at what they pull off in close-quarters).  However, don't let that fool you.  They are masters at telling their stories through movement and emotive response.  If you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your tastes) to find yourself locked in a room with one of the characters, you might find that they whisper a story to you.  A poor soul whispered one to me which made me physically tremble as she stroked my hair and cried real tears.  These are professionals.  No haunted house nonsense here.  You are the one who leaves haunted.

If you do go to see this show, my one piece of advice is this: If you go with a group, split up, go your own ways, and don't meet up again until the show is over.  I had made arrangements to go with others on several occasions.  Those plans all ended up falling through, so I decided to go it alone because I did not want to risk missing out, and I do not regret it.  As it turns out; however, the show has been sold out so regularly that it has been extended.  So, I will have another opportunity to attend...and so will you if you choose to.  I'm not saying it's for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone I slam into.

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