Yesterday was the start of celebrating Jenny's birthday; she met me at the Flatiron after work & we walked over to the restaurant Jason manages, Txikito, where we had Carla's Bon Voyage. That place is very lovely-- we drank the 2010 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina, a sort of slightly carbonated Basque wine. We started with láminas de setas, tiny slivers of mushroom, & gildas-- a sort of anchovy, olive & pepper skewer. Then came the kroketas-- croquettes-- & the arugula salad with the poached egg in it & fried eel larvae on top. My main plate was morros prensados-- a veal jowl terrine with sweet onion vinaigrette-- & Jenny's was albondogas, lamb meatballs in a mint broth. I really like it there-- Jason managing it aside-- & would like to see more of the wine bar around the corner next time. Basque food! Who knew. & the chefs are going to be on Iron Chef! So fun.
Not a bad start! & after that we went over to our date with destiny. Andy had enthusiastically recommended that I see Sleep No More, & almost immediately after that Marie said I needed to see it too. I'm not one to say no to something like that, so Jenny & I met up with Marie, Sydney, David & Daniel outside of the McKittrick Hotel. Now listen. Years back I saw De la Guarda with absolutely no idea what I was in for. I just went into the little room, where we were packed like sardines, cheek to jowl (just like dinner at Txikito!), & then slowly the show revealed itself-- glow in the dark animals trickling onto the ceiling, then water, & only then-- out of nowhere!-- the bungie jumpers. I had no idea that I was going to end up dancing in the rain & singling glossolalia with a bunch of lunatics. I wanted to replicate that experience, so I had a strict no spoiler policy. That policy ends here, so don't read any further if you live in Metropolis. Just take my word for it & go see it.
Seriously, heed my advice. If you can, go see Sleep No More. Stop reading, don't let anyone talk to you about it, just shell out the eighty bucks, buy a ticket & go see it as soon as you can. I'm going to start talking about it, though, so this is your last chance. Still here? Okay. Well, the first thing to say is that Sleep No More is a silent & non-linear performance inspired by Macbeth. They say it is a fusion of Shakespeare with Hitchcock, but there is more than a little Lynch in there. I'd even managed to avoid knowing that, though an hour before the show Jenny-- who knew-- teased me that it was Hamlet. The show takes place over six floors of a hotel-- & the hotel is really just amazing. I'm getting ahead of myself. You arrive at the McKittrick Hotel & the first thing they do is set the mood. You pick up your tickets & get a playing card-- I had the seven of clubs-- & then you are funneled into a pitch black labyrinth. Inch your way forward using your sense of touch dark. Your bumping & fumbling is accompanied by jarring music, sounding much like the distorted Edith Piaf song from Inception.
The tunnel spits you out...into a 1920's speakeasy, complete with live music & singers, absinthe punch & character actors. You may wish to knock back a martini or a Manhattan here-- or two. Be quick about it; they start letting people into the hotel by card number. Here is where you'll notice that you & your plus one didn't get the same card number. They do a good job splitting groups up. Maybe you trade cards so you & your wife can be in the same group. One of the actors escorts you to the elevator, issuing you a Scaramouch mask & issuing stern warnings. First: wear the mask at all times. Second: no talking whatsoever. You can come back to the bar at any time, but you are one you own. The elevator operator-- Jimmy-- takes over from there. "Fortune favors the bold!" he tells you, as they make another play to separate you; one elevator's worth of people is split up between three floors, & Jimmy does a good job making sure that folks who know each other are let off at different stops.
You are let off, masked, with strangers, & given no direction. I wandered...until I found a bald woman with no mask. I came upon her in a ballroom, filled with mist & plastic Christmas trees...slowly people filed in in period garb to sit at the table & act out-- in a mixture of slow-motion mime & contact improve dance-- a tense caricature of a supper scene. Amazing. Some were quite bloody. Intense. & here is the trick: scenes were happening all over the building. The entire play of Macbeth, enacted in parallel-- so that if you followed the actor playing Macbeth, you could follow his storyline as he moved from floor to floor-- but you'd miss Duncan's or Lady Macbeth's, as they performed their scenes in real time. & so on & so forth, for every one. Witches, Banquo, the Porter-- everything happening all at once, all throughout the hotel. You couldn't possibly see all of it; & that is the brilliance of the thing. There are a little over a hundred rooms-- just to give you a sense of the scope of the thing-- & each room is detailed down to the angels dancing on the head of a pin.
The hotel is fantastic. Gorgeous-- the set design is as much a piece of the show as the dancing. There are letters hidden in chests, antique medical charts to peruse, padded cells, a graveyard, a candy shop. You are encouraged to interact-- eat the handspun candy, paw through the books, look at the seal from the Lesser Key of Solomon drawn on the blackboard, read the "SATOR" square carved into the bottom of a drawer. Pet the taxidermy animals, walk among the trees & the fallen rubble. I spent lots of time exploring, not even following the action. There is a child's room-- in the Duncan suite, I suppose-- that has a one way mirror; if you cup your hand & peer onto the other side of the mirror, you can see an exact duplicate of the room...stained with blood. Really just incredible stuff; I pointed it out to a bunch of people & they were well & truly shocked. The performances themselves are not to be missed. They are as bloody & sexy as the source material. I watched Lady Macbeth strip naked & do a rage-dance with Macbeth around a bathtub. Powerful stuff. & all around the scene-- like nightmare creatures from Silencio in Mulholland Drive or the "Fidelio Club" of Eyes Wide Shut-- are masked watchers, a diabolical Greek Chorus, silent, drinking it all in with their eyes.
We met back up in the bar-- least, Jenny & I & Sydney did; Marie, David & Daniel having gotten too tangled up. I'd missed the witches scene, which I was assured I must catch, so I went to the actresses who had led us into the elevator & asked her advice on how to find some witches. She gave me some hints & strongly implied that I had to leave now if I wanted to see the final performance of the scene, so off Jenny & I scurried. It was...crazy great. There are three witches, & according to the program they are "Bald Witch," "Sexy Witch," & "Boy Witch." The scene where they meet Macbeth is wild. There is orgiastic dancing, loud techno music & heavy strobe lights-- in the choppy cacophony the Boy Witch strips naked & puts a stuffed goat's head on, while the other witches dance, make out & fondle each other. The Boy-Witch-as-Satan ends up covered in blood, & I totally got bloody penis all over me when he pushed past me in the throes of diabolical ecstasy. It. Was. Sweet. & just a taste of the whole; it all was apiece, all just a colossal success, a real victory for the avant-garde. Sometimes? An actor would take one of us masked viewers into a locked room. I don't know what goes on, then-- Marie spied through cracks & saw a nurse putting make-up on a woman, but I ransacked a room after the nurse & there were a bunch of modern alcohol swabs-- I really think that she pricked the mark's thumb, a la "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."