Last weekend I went to a hotel, a candy store, a taxidermist’s shop, a detective agency, a hospital, and a cemetery, to name a few places. Oh, and I saw people dancing, kissing, crying, casting spells, and committing murder. Which is to say that I finally got to experience “Sleep No More,” the eerie interactive theatre piece by the British company, Punchdrunk. The three-hour long, mostly wordless, off-Broadway play is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and infused with the stylish noir of Hitchcock films.
The company took over abandoned warehouse spaces for the set, and transformed them into The McKittrick Hotel. When you “check in” to the McKittrick, you are given a mask to wear, and then set loose, free to explore rooms and follow characters at your will. I was dazzled by some of the scenes between the characters, particularly the dance and fight choreography, but the most impressive character to me was the set itself. It’s a spooky Please Touch Museum, every nook and cranny packed with ephemera and Deco decor to examine for clues. There are hospital beds filled with potatoes, bathtubs with bloody water, letters from one character to another, secret passageways, vials of poison, and real candy in the Sweet Shop. The play has been so popular that Punchdrunk has extended its run several times. I hope they do again, so I can go back, eat a gumdrop, and peek in every last drawer.