Get In On the Act: Playbill.com's Guide to Immersive Theatre

Dinner and a show doesn't have to involve a restaurant and a theatre anymore; instead, audience members might find themselves enjoying a meal sitting next to a cast member or sipping on specially crafted elixirs served to them by an agitated Mad Hatter or harried White Rabbit.

Theatregoers can now be a part of the show by paying a visit to one of the many immersive theatre productions in New York that invites audiences into the experience. These site-specific productions, which are performed on interactive sets that embody the plays' locations rather than onstage with audiences watching, invite theatregoers to get in on the act. Attendees can witness a love story unfold in 19th-century Russia, take part in a rave in an abandoned hotel in downtown Chelsea or fall down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland located inside a mental institution.

Click through to read Playbill.com's round-up of immersive theatre in New York.

Phillipa Soo and Lucas Steele
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Inspired by "War and Peace," this rock opera is set in the Kazino Supper Club, completely immersing audience members in the atmosphere of 19th-century Moscow. Seated inside an opulent red-walled dining area and performance space, theatregoers are treated to pierogies before the show begins and can order snacks and beverages throughout the evening. Tolstoy's story of passion and heartbreak in Moscow's society is staged throughout the entire performing space as the actors run amongst, talk to and flirt with the audience members. Through March 2.  thegreatcometof1812.com

 

Sleep No More

Punchdrunk's immersive experience is a journey to another world — just what the world is depends on each guest's own imagination. Part haunted house, part film noir and part Macbeth, Sleep No More thoroughly transplants visitors into The McKittrick Hotel, a five-story building they can wander from top to bottom while experiencing the sights and sounds, as well as the residents.

After donning a ghostly white mask, which guests are encouraged to wear for the entire time, visitors can follow actors from room to room (of which there are more than 100) or set their own pace, watching song and dance performances as well as drinking in the richly detailed and thoroughly creepy scenery. Indoor graveyards, blood-soaked bathtubs and mirrors with reflections that make one look twice are just a few of the treats the McKittrick has to offer. sleepnomorenyc.com

Luke Murphy in Sleep No More.
photo by Thom Kaine

Then She Fell

"We're all mad here," the Mad Hatter says to Alice in Lewis Carroll's novel. The same can be said at Then She Fell, the "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired immersive production by Third Rail Projects. Staged in the mental ward of the Kingsland Hospital and littered with characters from "Alice in Wonderland" and "Alice Through the Looking Glass," Then She Fell excites each of the senses by offering guests vials of beverages and bites of food to snack on as they journey through the hospital ward and into Carroll's mind.

The scenes and spaces explore the relationship between Carroll, author of "Alice in Wonderland," and the real-life Alice Liddell, who inspired the fictional character. Visitors may find themselves brushing Alice's hair and discussing first loves with her, sorting through aged medical records in a dimly-lit doctor's office or attending a mad tea party with some familiar characters. Through June 29. thenshefell.com

Speakeasy Dollhouse

Murder and mayhem rule at Cynthia von Buhler's speakeasy-style show. Inspired by the real-life murder of von Buhler's grandfather, Prohibition Era speakeasy owner Frank Spano, Speakeasy Dollhouse invites participants back in time for a night of secrets, lies, love and death. Staged in the downtown building that once served as mobster Meyer Lansky’s hangout, the show invites particpants into the bustling bakery, where they can sip on "special" coffee and chat with the dapper gentlemen playing cards before climbing the stairs to a glamorous, secret lounge, where they can enjoy cocktails served in teacups as they converse with the characters of the show while live music is performed by Howard Fishman and his band. Theatregoers are invited to help solve the murder of who killed Frank Spano — if they can stay alive until the end of the night. speakeasydollhouse.com

The Brothers Booth

Travel back in time when entering the historic Players Club, where The Brothers Booth invites guests to explore the building as well as the relationship between brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Presented by Speakeasy Dollhouse creator Cynthia von Buhler, The Brothers Booth delves into how sibling rivalry between acclaimed actors John and Edwin may have contributed to John Wilkes' decision to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Guests at The Brothers Booth can search Edwin Booth's former mansion for the truth, as well as enjoy cocktails, listen to live music and even attend a seance or two. Opens March 1. speakeasydollhouse.com.  

Queen of the Night

Dinner and a show could turn out to be much more than one bargained for at Queen of the Night, the opulent environmental production taking place at the Diamond Horseshoe. Themed around a dark debutante ball thrown for the Queen's teenage daughter, the production features dance, fashion, circus acts and gourmet cuisine, all held in a luxurious, genre-blurring environment. Guests are selected to participate in various aspects of the show, many of which take place in dark corners or hidden hallways. Everyone experiences something different as the evening progresses, but everyone will definitely experience something. Through March 30.  queenofthenightnyc.com

 

Ruthie Ann Miles
Photo by Joan Marcus

Here Lies Love

This participatory disco-musical by David Byrne- Fatboy Slim, about the political rise and fall of Filipino leaders Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, invited audience members into a nightclub where they partied with the characters. The original production extended four times before closing and will return to The Public Theater's LuEsther Hall for an open-ended run beginning March 24.  

4 Chambers

This immersive blend of dance, theatre, film and visual installation features corridors that function as arteries and veins, leading to four performance chambers that audiences are guided through by cast members. The interactive multimedia performance was performed on Governors Island in July 2013 before opening at Arts@Renaissance Jan. 22. Through March 22. jodyoberfelder.com