As I described in this post, I really don’t like being scared. But it’s not like I feel scared on the subway at night, it’s more that I’m scared of spooky things like ghosts or mummies chasing me. One of the things on my 28 Things list is a little more nervewracking than other items because I expected to be terrified by it, a performance of Sleep No More, suggested by Dan. And I was happy for this suggestion because that’s what I wanted the list to be, things that I might not necessarily have volunteered myself for. This also ended up being one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in NYC.
#6 Sleep No More
Sleep No More is an interactive theater experience presented in the fictional McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. The “hotel” is about 100 rooms made up in old warehouses and as an audience member, you find your way around the hotel and can follow any of the actors from whom you wish to see more. The performance is based on Macbeth but has some Alfred Hitchcock-ian aspects to it.
Nicole and Kater came on this journey with me. Our tickets were for 7:45. The way the tickets work is they start people throughout the night but perform the whole piece just once. For example, Mondays – Thursdays, you can start at 7:30, 7:45, 8:00, 8:15, or 8:30 and the performance goes until around 10:30. On Fridays and Saturdays, in addition to a regular show, there is a late-night performance starting at 11. I would suggest trying to get tickets for the earliest entrances so that you have the most time to explore the hotel.
Kater, Nicole, and I met up at the Half King and pregamed, ate, and talked about how nervous we were before walking over to the hotel which has no signage, just a line and a bouncer. I had knots in my stomach and Kater was “on the precipice of a nervous breakdown,” but we went inside and faced our fate anyway. We had to check everything we had and I became even more nervous, mostly that I would somehow lose the girls and be kidnapped by the actors or something and be left without my phone and not be able to reunite with them and be trapped in the warehouse forever.
We “checked in” to the hotel and got three playing cards, a 5, a 6, and a 7. Walking to the bar down the dark, twisting hallway was absolutely terrifying. When we got there it was cold, spooky, and smoky with smoke-machine air, and we learned that our card numbers indicated how we were supposed to enter the hotel, the 5’s first, the 6’s second, and the 7’s third. We quickly decided that we were in this together and would break the rules and pretend we didn’t know each other if we had to and all go in at once.
One of the actors who looked like Joseph Gordon-Levitt came over to our group and started talking to us in a creepy monotone voice and put his arms around us. We giggled because we were so scared and tried talking to him like he was a normal person. I asked him if anyone ever told him he looked like JGL and he said “You are so nice” in the creepiest way possible. I then became nervous that he would remember us and pull us into a back room and murder us as part of his performance.
When the 7’s were called, we went to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and got our masks. Everyone in the audience had to wear white Phantom of the Opera-esque masks during the entire performance. We entered an elevator and Kater had been warned by a coworker that sometimes they open the elevator and push someone out all on their own. We tried to stay in the middle as much as possible but that didn’t end up happening in our elevator. Then we were let loose without any instruction at all into the abyss of the hotel. I pride myself on being fiercely independent, but at that moment I wanted nothing more than to hold on to Kater and Nicole as we made our way through the first couple rooms.
I was under the impression that part of this experience would be trying to solve a mystery of some sort, so when we went through the rooms I was looking for clues everywhere. The rooms were full of the creepiest things possible, jars with bones inside, dolls hung up without heads, tattered clothes hung up in a maze, animal heads, basically anything that could possibly give you nightmares. There was a room with a forest inside, and a floor of abandoned hospital beds and bathtubs with deep red water. Eventually, we found our first actress and followed her into an abandoned cabaret room and watched her unlock her dinner tray which appeared to be raw meat, eat, pull out a ring from her mouth that had been in the meat, put the ring on a finger of an audience member, and then get up on stage and cry and laugh as she mouthed the lyrics to the Tony Bennett recording of “Is That All There Is” which is a song from the 1960s. Needless to say, I was pretty confused.
Throughout the night, we found more and more performance parts, and without spoiling too much, there were many fights in the hallways, people going crazy while alone, full nudity, and some dancing. But very few words were exchanged between the actors, at least in the scenes that I saw, so it wasn’t super easy to follow. Toward the end of the night, all audience members were led into one place for one final performance scene with all of the actors and then we all went back to the bar. There we met Joseph Gordon-Levitt again and he greeted me with “there she is” in a completely normal and not creepy voice.
I’m not going to lie and say that I understood everything that I saw. I can definitely see why there are people who have gone several times to try and see different scenes that they missed. At $90 a viewing though, I can’t imagine I’ll go again – I still have 22 things to do!. Afterward, I did look up a brief synopsis of Macbeth to try and figure out where which scenes that I saw went in the play. I think it may have been a good idea to read up on Macbeth before going but maybe that would have ruined it for some audience members. I also think that in hindsight, you should absolutely split up from your friends. The worst thing that I saw happen was someone being taken into a hut by themselves in the forest room and we heard later at the bar that he was just served tea inside. I think it is a individual experience and when the girls and I did get split up toward the end, it was fun to hear about what things they had seen that I hadn’t.
And just remember to stop following the actors when you leave the hotel. Don’t try and cross the street to follow them as they are going to go smoke a cigarette across the way. And take off your mask before trying to hail a cab. No one wants to pick you up in that mask. No one.