In New York City, located in the meatpacking district lies the McKittrick Hotel, an entertainment and dining venue. One day, my friend and I decided to go to see the highly acclaimed and much talked about interactive theater piece by Punchdrunk Theater Company called Sleep No More. We knew we were headed into a macabre experience, one like we’ve never had before when they took our cell phones away, made sure we were wearing closed toe shoes and they required each spectator to wear a venetian masquerade mask.
As we entered, an unusually tall woman dressed in a ball gown said in an uncharacteristically low voice, ‘Welcome my darlings, come with me.” She then proceeded to tell us that there was no talking permitted during the “performance.” This was like daggers to two Jewish middle aged women. We were given a brief description of how to maneuver through the production. There were multiple levels with a series of intricate sets and we would be walking through each scene, up and down stairs, into different rooms and corridors. All without any direction. If a room was empty, we could wait for actors to appear, or we could find an actor and follow him or her throughout the venue. The scenery was highly detailed and we were encouraged to rifle through props, drawers, cabinets and so on. They guaranteed that groups would be not be able to stay together, but we vowed that we would. Well we lost each other within 5 minutes! As I was wandering in a very dark space completely alone, I wondered, where was everyone? Suddenly a barrage of spectators who were following an actor came into the space and a scene was played before our eyes. The production was based on Macbeth; however, very little of what we saw that night was recognizable as such. During some scenes they actually took audience members into rooms and closed the door. No one knows what happened to these people. I was trying to find my friend, but to no avail. I remembered they told us that if we needed a break we could go to the bar. But if at any point a spectator asked the attendants where they were, the attendants would hold a finger to their lips and say, “shhhh.” That wasn’t helpful at all. Every scene was a myriad of gyrations, orgies with strobe lights and dance scenes that reminded us of something out of a satanic ritual. We finally found each other in the bar during one of our “breaks” and we couldn’t find the words. My friend was sitting in the back of the bar drinking heavily with her mask pulled up on the top of her head and when she greeted me she was unintelligible. I held my hand up and said,” Let’s take a moment to wrap our brains around this and then decide if we need to go back in and continue.” We drank in silence for 15 minutes and then finally we proceeded to share stories of what we experienced. Then, believe it or not, we went back in for more! It was similar to knowing you should look away from a train wreck, but you just can’t. In the next few minutes we were standing 10 feet away from a naked Lady Macbeth in a bathtub filled with bloody water. That was bit uncomfortable, but with that being said, it was the only glimmer of Shakespeare’s famous play that was recognizable. At that moment, we looked to our left and saw a 60 something tourist from Dayton, Ohio ( we asked her later because you know, the whole no talking rule). She was visiting her children who lived in Chelsea. It was her first day ever in New York City. I thought, Why did her children bring her here? Did they dislike her or did she lose a bet? The poor woman from Ohio who rarely left her front porch was watching a woman strip down to nothing and bleed to death in a bathtub in front of her. To this day, we have heard rumors that she never went back to Ohio. She now lives under the Brooklyn Bridge and sings show tunes to herself all day long! When we finally took the train home, we both agreed that we felt like we were dragged through the seventh layer of hell backwards by our toenails and yet we vowed to see it again one day. We heard that every time one sees it, the experience improves even more, and as much as we Jewish ladies like to complain, we have to admit it was quite a captivating experience!
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