… What is it? …

I went to Sleep No More thinking, from what I’d heard, that it would be an exciting, deconstructed version of Macbeth.  That is, I expected to see a play since it’s listed as “Off-Broadway” and Punchdrunk is a British theater company.  Oh was I wrong.  I’m writing about it to let you know, if interested, that it’s not a play and not much about Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Still, it’s well done for what it is, and admirably polished, though not my cup of tea.

It’s a kind of spooky fun-house entertainment installed in a re-worked old hotel in NYC’s Chelsea district.  Almost everyone in line (you wait in line outside as for a club until your scheduled time comes up) was in their early 20’s, lots of couples who’d made a fiscal investment for a night of fun.  Teenagers would love it, but it’s expensive, and the large bar is the central launching point for the experience, so in feeling it’s more for “over 21” — but not much over.

Finally allowed in, you pass through a long, dark, high-ceilinged passage, check your belongings (for a hefty fee), since it’s best to be unencumbered, and the staff keeps repeating “It’s hot up there” — turn your reservation into a playing card ticket farther on, and then set off on narrow, winding (Sleep No More is not for the claustrophobic) twists and turns to emerge into a large bar and lounge. Its smoky illusion unifies staff in evening dress, visitors in jeans and whatever, and the blood red decor for an oceanic experience. Cocktails are available for purchase to heighten the intoxication.

From there — when your number comes up, heh heh — you embark on the path of Sleep No More.  Wearing a mask to further remove you from yourself, you follow maze-like dark corridors at seeming random with illuminated vignettes with elaborate and well done sets, and music and dance, that are scary, seductive or both.  Unlike, say, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, these scenes have live performers.  Some make reference to Macbeth, e.g., there’s an attack by witches, and others are just violent — a man kills a woman — or sexy — two guys in bed, and other mixes and matches.

The staff is well trained (you can tell them by their black masks — yours is white) and are on hand to rescue the faint-hearted or those who just want to find their way back to the bar — or the exit.  Still, the sense that you’re in a fire-trap … well, let’s just say it adds a realistic note of fear.  DISCLOSURE:  I didn’t see all of it but after getting the idea, found a black mask to guide me to the exit.

So that’s what that’s about.   …  chacun a son goutcaveat emptor … etc …

Sleep No More  plays on West 27th Street in NYC through June 27th.

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