I'm about to be the worst and write about something that I can't really tell you about. I mean, I could tell you, but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to very vaguely give you my impression of what is hands down the greatest theatrical event I have ever attended: Sleep No More.
You'll just have to trust me that this is one of those things where the less you know, the better it will be.
I have been wanting to see Sleep No More ever since I was a wee young Dramatic Literature Major studying in London and my professor told me about a production in New York called Sleep No More. She said, the production company had taken over an old hotel, built a very detailed set, and that they do MacBeth in it as you walk through. I thought this sounded delightful, although now I realize it was slightly inaccurate and a gross understatement of what this thing really is.
For my birthday this year, The B Man came through and got us tickets!
This past Friday, we braved the prematurely freezing streets of Manhattan and took ourselves to the McKittrick Hotel. We had a few drinks at the Manderley Bar inside. The drinks were delicious, but pricey even by Midtown Manhattan standards. However, I highly recommend having at least one drink in the bar as it really sets the mood for the evening with a live jazz band and decor so detailed you feel like you're on a film set.
We weren't particularly sure what we were supposed to do, but somehow just before we needed to enter the hotel, someone came and told us it was time. And so off we went into the winding, art deco, darkness of The McKittrick Hotel.
It's set up so that you lose sense of where you are and, quite frankly, when you are. It's a bit like walking into a highly sophisticated version of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. But I assure you, nothing jumps out at you! I won't say it's not scary, as the whole thing is sometimes a bit unnerving, but it is not meant to startle you and it is not a haunted house. So, don't be afraid my fellow wieners!
What my professor said is true: they did take over a hotel, build a MASSIVELY intricate set (seriously, you won't believe it), and they do something while you walk through and explore. The rest is really up to you.
Now at this point I'd rather not say anything else except that what follows is a surreal, disorienting, and expertly-executed immersive experience. I don't even want to call it a play, because "play" does not remotely touch on what happens in the hotel.
There are no pictures allowed inside and the whole experience is shrouded in secrecy, but there are a few things that will help you enjoy the experience (without giving anything away):
- You have to wear a mask the entire time, so for comfort reasons, don't wear glasses (contacts are best if you're vision impaired like me).
- It's only loosely based on MacBeth, but I found a general knowledge of that play helpful.
- Get separated from your group! I know this makes some people uncomfortable, but honestly being anonymous and alone is crucial.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Throw caution to the wind. They have ways of letting you know if what you're doing is not okay.
After we exited the hotel and found one another again, The B Man and I could not stop raving about the show!
We had to fight the impulse to call everyone we knew and tell them to book a flight to New York just to see Sleep No More.
Completely famished, we walked down 10th ave to The Empire Diner.
We slipped into a booth and continued rattling on, trying to make sense of what we'd just experienced and what more there was to see while chowing down on Gluten Free Truffle Tater Tots and Sweet Potato Fries
Accompanied by a Kale and Beet Salad for me.
And Mac & Cheese for The B Man.
I'm sorry for the crappy photo quality, everywhere we went that night was cloaked in darkness.
The Empire Diner was really the perfect spot for post-Sleep No More munching and discussion. The food was delicious and the art-deco interior seemed like an extension of the McKittrick Hotel (plus it's open really late).
The dimly lit tables kept us talking about our experience until we ambled back to Brooklyn.
We both found that the masks, although creepy, made us behave in such different ways than we would have otherwise and we both agreed it was good that we got separated. We did manage to find each other a few times in the hotel, but it was never as enjoyable. There is something about the layer of anonymity that allows you to flow with the ghostly traffic when you want and take action in ways you would not do in normal society. After all, they can't see your face, so they can't really hold judgment against you.
Sleep No More exceeded all of my very high expectations and is at the top of my list for things to do in NYC. I now feel like if you come to/are in New York and don't go, you are a fool. It's a completely unique experience that will seriously rock your world, even if it does leave you super confused (in a good way).
Here is the link for tickets, but hurry because it's closing on December 20th! This is not something you will want to miss!