Sleep No More, presented by Punchdrunk, will be worth every single sent of your non-discounted (because there are no discounts!) $75 ticket. Originally produced in Boston, this theatrical even has been gaining buzz ever since performances started. I’d had two friends rave about it before I broke down and bought a ticket to go wit Lily, one of my friends from CTI. (Surprisingly it wasn’t hard at all to convince a theatre person to spend $75 on this.)
In a run down old building in far west Chelsea (your walk there from the subway will add to your uneasiness for the show), this incredible production team has completely decked out over 100 rooms in completely period props, furniture, and lighting. The detailing is amazing alone. Patrons do take a lot of time to examine it extremely closely – which, in a world where you’re told not to touch anything, is a nice change of pace. After check-in, you’re given a playing card which determines what group you’re in and the you’re led into the bar. The talented actors playing the hotel bell hops, bartenders, and hostesses never break character. When your group is called you meet and are escorted onto a large freight lift. Here you are given your mask (so you can’t tell who anyone is, including your friends) and told the rules: no pictures, no cell phones, no talking (among other things). Then at floor five he begins to let a few people out before closing the door: “This is something to be experienced alone,” the bell hop says as the door closes and he does the same thing on the third and fourth floors. Luckily, I was let out on the 2nd floor with Lily.
The story that you’re supposed to see is loosely Macbeth (one of my absolute favorite tragedies by Shakespeare). I had been told by friends who had experienced it previously that you should follow the actors so you’ll see EVERY thing. So as soon as we saw a man in a tuxedo we went after him. Sometimes you have run, in dim lighting, after the actors and down stairs as well. We ran up and down countless flights of stairs but I will venture to say that the adrenaline and anticipation of “what’s going to happen next?” kept us going. We saw a dinner scene, an elaborate dance, the scene in which Lady Macbeth is vigorously washing blood – that isn’t really there – off herself in a bathtub (and yes, she was naked), there’s an orgy scene, and a couple of fight/conflict scenes that are beautiful modern dance sets.
There were tons of other rooms too but I won’t give too much away. Lily and I lost each other after going to chase one of the actors after the dance, and I completely freaked out. I was alone in a dark room with barely anyone else around. I soon found another group, and about half an hour later, found Lily, and everything was fine. The next time we lost each other, I didn’t freak out. I knew that we’d eventually find each other again.
After an hour or an hour and a half, you’ll come across the same scene that you’ve witnessed once before and you’ll want to go find a different room (I did) but you should definitely stay and once the scene is over, follow a different character out of the room than the one that you followed the first time. You’ll see a completely different story and side of things.
We left around 10pm (after having started around 7:20pm) and we were completely exhausted (not to mention covered in dust, and probably a layer of dirt).
Sleep No More was worth every penny. It’s the most unique theatre experience you’ll have in New York right now, and maybe even possibly the country. Where else will you be accosted by insanely talented actors and made part of the story (kind of)? These are my three pieces of advice should you choose to go:
- Wear sneakers.
- Check your bag(s) at the door.
- Follow the actors.
You may also want to check out some reviews or articles about it, like this one, if you’re still unsure of what it is. Maybe you even want to read, or watch, Macbeth before going too. Enjoy!