“Sleep No More” is Punchdrunk Theater’s staging of Macbeth, as if retold by Alfred Hitchcock and Isadora Duncan. It has been running since 2011 in a formerly abandoned club in Chelsea renamed the McKittrick Hotel. It is the show that started the latest trend of immersive theater in New York, and it is an engaging if dizzying mix of design, dance and drama – or at least a trigger to recall the drama in Shakespeare’s tragedy, since none of the performers recite the Bard’s lines. The production depends on theatergoers’ prior knowledge of the Scottish play, generally a good bet, although the more recently someone has read it (or seen a straightforward production of it), the more the disparate images and chaotic moments of “Sleep No More” will cohere.
It’s up to the theatergoers to follow the characters as they rush up and down the stairs, entering into various startling tableaux vivant – Lady Macbeth washing her hands naked in a bathtub, say — or rough-and-tumble dancing. One can wander on one’s own through the half dozen floors of close to 100 dimly-lit rooms, some of which don’t feel like rooms at all, such as a graveyard that seems to generate its own fog. There are also drawers full of relevant photographs and letters to riffle through. Audience members explore at their own pace for up to three hours. I tired of exploration well before the three hours were up — thanks largely to the clammy and creepy Scream/Eyes Wide Shut masks we were required to wear — but spent some 15 minutes trying to figure out how to exit the place; the mute masked ushers weren’t much help.
Since the show began, “Sleep No More” now plays seven days a week, and it is popular enough that the “McKittrick Hotel,” still not a real hotel, has become a hub for nightlife, with a restaurant, a rooftop bar, a small concert venue, and a place for special event parties, on Valentine’s Day and other occasions, that offer “Sleep No More” in a package deal.
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Sleep No More
Felix Barrett (Direction and Design), Maxine Doyle (Direction and
Choreography), Stephen Dobbie (Sound Design), Beatrice Minns (Design Associate), and Livi Vaughan (Design Associate).
Tickets: $75 – $95, depending on the day of the week.
Running time: up to three hours