Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Then She Fell (Review)

Courtesy of Then She Fell

The haunted houses that populate NYC in October specialize in either cattling herds into quick scares or giving you their undivided attention as they mock you. Sometimes you need a break from the dash and slash and want something different. I experienced Steampunk Haunted House years back and though the sets were wonderful and different, it did not have an everyman feel. I felt a little out of my element struggling to find commonality in my experiences in this haunted house. Little did I know that a few years later, that commonality would peek through like a rabbit out of a hat.

Then She Fell is a world I could understand, but in ways, it also spun a web of pure dreamlike imagery that had as many questions as it did answers.

Tucked in an old wing of Brooklyn's Greenpoint Hospital is an interactive performance that allows you to spend time with the imagination of Lewis Carroll's creations and even get a glimpse of the surreal life of the man himself. It is, by far one of the most thrilling, mesmerizing and fantastic experiences I've had in the world of participatory theater. Guests explore the brilliantly beautiful and well crafted rooms, searching for clues to the scenes that will unfold. Watching through a looking glass you will remember those legendary characters we all know from our childhood, though they are now walking metaphors waiting for you to meet them face to face. The White Queen the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, mirror image Alices and Lewis himself are all ready to greet youu. Guided by a nursing staff who cues you to your next encounter,  Third Rail Projects delivers a masterpiece of artistic interactive literature that opens up your imagination beyond your wildest dreams.

Follow the White Rabbit
Courtesy of Then She Fell

Joined by some of my fellow Survivors of Blackout, performances are maxed out at 15 per show. It's this small comforting feeling of being with strangers and friends that at the end of the night will made us all a little bit closer in sharing this experience. Down some city stairs, a garden welcomes you into a piece of performance space that would have rooms that I would be stunned by.

The performance starts with skeleton keys next to my scribbled name on a note. Files and wooden boxes start you on a journey as you discover medical records of patients with some similar illnesses to these Disney-fied characters. The guidelines of our adventure are told in a monotonous tone by our nurse guide and off we went.

There are different tracks on your journey and you will not know which rooms, which characters you will get to interact with. Led away and alone at times, the personalized one on one nature of Then She Fell is simply overwhelming. Dual Alices dance in a variety of skillful synchronization led by a soundtrack that echoes across speakers in all the rooms. Soon dwindling from two to one, I am left alone with an Alice (Tara O'Con) who I mimic in some fruit eating. It's completely surreal yet so much fun. To fully participate in this is to experience all your hidden desires of being a part of a performance where your participation is vital for all those involved. You are not just watching actors from a far, you are watching them from mere feet and in a way you are watching yourself engage in a way few immersive experiences will let you do.

Throughout the course of this 2 hour "dream world" I would meet the Hatter, the White and Red Queens with my fellow participants and have one one one time with Mr. Carroll. The story is a blend of your own investigation via opening up drawers and lock boxes as well as reading material left for you. In a nutshell, the mysterious relationship of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the inspiration for the tale) becomes a correspondence with you as the human telegraph. It's filled with a coming of age drama, mother's fury and a forbidden romance pinnacle-ized by a dance by Carroll and Alice in a large open space reserved for a patient showers.

Courtesy of Then She Fell
 Your Mad Tea Awaits

The Alice characters personify this conflict in memorable scenes of pure wonder. The White Rabbit and Red Queen  tussle in a dance "fight" of pure relentless motion. By myself with Carroll, he tells his tale in a room with literally water breaking through the floorboards. But the pure ecstasy of Then She Fell hits its apex with a mad tea party attended by myelf, 3 Survivors, both Queens, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. (tea that me and my fellow Survivor had created). It was by far the most fun I had doing  some limited theater pantomime and light snacking in my life.

The performances are seamless, a throwback to a time where only the elite could enjoy dance and song. The Alices (Marissa Nielsen-Pincus and Tara O'Con) reflective mirror routine was a joy to watch. The Hatter (Elizabeth Carena) fast talking conversations were awesome to be a part of. I even got a bit of a wink from her as it all ended which made me smile. Carroll (Alberto Denis) and the White Rabbit (Tom Pearson) showed a versatility in their dance and their silent style which also can be said of the Red Queen (Rebekah Morin) and White Queen (Jennine Willett). Even the "nurses" who danced within the interludes where you were between rooms were skillful in their tasks.

In the midst of this organized chaos, I was given "potions" to drink and other tantalizing snacks that had my taste buds jumping. It's by far an all out explosion of your five senses in a way where you will see, touch, smell taste and hear a world that is very familiar but at the same time new and innovative. Then She Fell gives you the rare opportunity to visit a Wonderland where the book and history come to life in ways you never imagined.

The story is only part of the experience. You will feel like an improv actor thrown into the deep end of a performance with a very talented cast who are looking to you to put in your 2 cents in every scene. I've never had that feeling before and it was exhilarating. I'll admit, I was obsessed with being the perfect Fox Mulder early on but I began to relax and let myself watch what was unfolding before me. When cued, I participated with the glee of a bad karaoke singer, acting and performing to a non existent audience other than myself, the cast and a few of my friends.

The fantastical and surreal are your playground at Then She Fell. As I tweeted after the event, I felt like I stepped into Lewis Carroll’s book and his characters became my friends. I hope I see them again one day.

The Vitals

  • The official site
  • Like on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Then She Fell may extend their run, so check the site for tickets and cancellations.
  • For more photos of Then She Fell , check out the jaded viewer Facebook page.
  • Special Thanks to the cast and crew who my group and I got to meet after the performance. We got a tour of the space, talked about scenes and rooms we missed and answered all our questions about the experience. They are talented and wonderful and I wish them continued success. 
Check out a behind the scenes and talk with the creators.

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  1. fyi they are apparently extending the show but no concrete details yet

  2. Seems they are moving to Manhattan next year and have new performances starting New Years!

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