Last night was my second trip to the McKittrick Hotel and "Sleep No More" (first trip described in brief here). Living in Texas makes seeing this show repeatedly a challenge, so even though I'm terribly obsessed with it I've only managed to actually see it twice. I know that if I lived closer, that number would be much higher by now, and after last night I know I need to go back again.
I went with two of my oldest and closest friends who had both seen the show already. As we rode the subway before the show, we compared notes from our previous visits to the McKittrick and tried to determine WHAT was on WHICH floor and how each one of us wanted to proceed. I had been tossing around a couple of ideas for how I would spend my time - eventually these boiled down into Three Stated Sleep No More Goals: I really wanted to check out the forest and hut on the 5th floor, because last time I was there I was unable to get to it for some reason; I wanted to go through the Narnia closet; and of course I wanted to be chosen for the most impossible task of all.
One thing I was really afraid of on my return visit was the attitude of the audience. I've heard horror stories about how pushy and aggressive they've become and was nervous that this would ruin my experience. What I witnessed was occasional pushy annoying people, but I still managed to enjoy the show.
We were the first to arrive and were so excited to be there early. Once inside Manderley I drank absinthe and we sat and waited for our cards to be called (we were aces - first ones in). At the elevator I saw a few people intentionally hanging back in the hopes that they'd be closest to the door when it opened on the 6th floor. One of my friends made a very sincere attempt to be that exact person, but was moved aside by the elevator operator for another person to have that experience. We were then let off on the 5th floor and separated, and my explorations began.
I walked through the room with all of the beds and wandered eventually into the room with the bathtubs. The nurse was standing in the concrete window above one of the tubs that looked out into the forest maze. She danced there briefly, then went through the window and into the maze, and I followed her. Shortly afterward I watched her cut apart a page from a book at her desk when a change in the sound summoned her back to the forest. I chased her through the trees along with several other audience members and watched her encounters with the Matron in the hut. Last time I was at the show, I had not spent a lot of time following actors and it was great to be right up close to these intense moments. I also had completely missed the forest before and just last week a friend of mine was pulled into the Matron's 1:1, so exploring the forest and seeing the hut was the first of my three stated goals for this Sleep No More excursion.
I must have wandered down to the 4th floor next and eventually followed Agnes Naismith into her bedroom. I watched her remove makeup, stare at the photo of her sister and eventually fall asleep. And when she eventually exited the room, I followed her through the Narnia wardrobe (thus completing the second of my three stated goals for the evening). Later on I picked up Agnes's trail again, witnessed her receive the locket from Hecate with the note that read "WE HAVE HER," saw her dance with the Tailor and steal money from him. And I continued to wander around Gallow Green - to be honest, the crowds of people that follow the main characters around kind of drive me nuts.
Now, the 3rd of my three stated goals was honestly a JOKE. I had absolutely zero intention of being sent on a quest for Hecate's ring, and I know how much of a fool's errand that is just from being the SNM fangirl that I am. But I got "lucky," and somehow managed to walk into the replica Manderley bar AT THE RIGHT FREAKING TIME, and within five seconds of entering, Hecate's hand was around my throat (my BFF later said that I must have a sign on my face that says "HECATE TAKE ME!" since not only was that my second 1:1 with Hecate, but I had not been in the room long enough to be following her or attempting to be chosen by her, it just happened). She stared intensely at my eyes and touched my face, then took me by the hand and ran through the crowd to her lair. At the door she paused and embraced me, and told me to wait because she had something for me. So, I did, and wondered if I'd just happened to get the same 1:1 as I had last year. Once her door was shut and locked several of the audience members that had followed us tried to open it, but I just stood and waited. Eventually she opened the door a crack, took my hand and pulled me inside. Hecate spends a lot of time with her hands on you, and there's a forcefulness to it - she PULLS me through the crowd and through the door, after which she GRIPPED my arms while standing behind me and moved me in front of her desk. Nothing really nice or gentle or here-move-this-way-why-don't-you about what she does. She peeled back my mask and looked into my eyes, and started pressing on my face, pushing on my cheekbones and moving the skin away from the eyes. She then reached down and picked up a vial that was on her desk, and made me drink from it (tears). I was kind of clumsy and dribbled some onto my shirt, and then giggled at my own ineptness before she had her hands on my arms again, moving me to the back of her lair. She walked me backwards into the pitch blackness and began her story "once upon a time..." - the one about the boy lost in the woods and the old woman and the ring. Wish I could tell you details about this story, but she PUSHED ME UP AGAINST THE WALL in that dark room and, well, I find that distracting. Actually several things she did were distracting, but I'm weird that way. She started wailing, before grabbing me and whispering in my ear "FIND MY RING, I KNOW YOU KNOW WHERE IT IS." Um. No, actually I don't. (I sort of imagined Louis CK in that moment.) A mask was put on my face and I was pushed out of her lair into the apothecary, out of breath and kind of terrified and GODDAMMIT, now I had to find the RING.
This basically killed my next two hours. The third stated Sleep No More goal was to find Hecate's ring, and now I'd been tasked with it. I couldn't afford to find other characters, follow them around, etc. The first thing I did was head back up to the 5th floor, because all I could remember from the very blurry memories of the story was something about a forest and an old woman who lived there. I wandered around up there for awhile, looking for said ring. Looking for cracks it could have fallen through (this was part of the story). Looking for anywhere that it might be hiding. And I saw nothing. I decided to head to the 3rd floor and see if anything there inspired me to investigate. I encountered Lady Macduff very briefly, wandered around her apartments and then wandered through the ruined courtyard (looking for cracks or a grate or something), saw that the scene with the Macbeths and the bathtub was going on but...no time for that, I had a ring to find (never mind that I knew full well I was NOT going to find this ring). Since I had never made it past the 3rd floor, I took this opportunity to wander down to the lower floors and briefly check them out. At some point I was digging through dirt inside chests. No, seriously, I was just grasping at straws. I had at this point decided that the ring wouldn't be out in the open and then saw the chests of dirt and spent some time there.
I decided to head back up to Gallow Green, because there is just so much going on there I thought I might continue to find other places that inspired me to look. And that's when I decided that the ring HAD to be in the Detective's office. HAD TO. Because that's where lost things go, right? And that's how I lost maybe an hour, going through every inch of the detective agency (there are a LOT of drawers with STUFF in them). At one point I thought I had found a ring box and my heart stopped, but no ring inside. I must have looked absolutely insane to any other audience member who went in there - who on earth is this woman digging through every single drawer of "evidence?"
None of these decisions - it's in the dirt! it's in the detective agency! - came from anything other than me just looking for SOMETHING that inspired me to look closer. I could barely remember the original story, which I can only assume held some important clues, and I also knew that the damn thing was obviously not out in plain sight, as only a handful of people have ever successfully found it. And it might very well have been in one of those chests of dirt or in one of the drawers of the detective agency. Hell it might have been found and taken by another audience member for all I know. But I never found it.
At this point I wandered back into the replica Manderley just in time for the beginning of the rave/orgy. Since I had only seen the tail end of this last time I decided to stay and watch the whole thing. Since I'm currently lighting "Macbeth" at the University of New Hampshire and have read and reread the script many times in the last few months, it was awesome to be able to pick out pieces of the witches' prophecies throughout the rave. When it was over, I turned and followed Boy Witch to the bathroom, where I was one of the lucky people who helped him to get dress (and the one who couldn't quickly unbutton his shirt to save her life). And at that point I headed down to the ballroom for the final moments...
Yeah. Clearly, I have to go back.