City Stories

Rabbit Holes and Tea Parties

Last week, a coworker offered up a ticket to a show he couldn’t make it to anymore – and at a steep discount, to boot. Without plans and with a newfound insistence on soaking up every experience to come my way, I snapped it up.

Which is how I found myself setting out at 10pm on a Tuesday night for an immersive theater experience in a converted out-patient hospital in Brooklyn. Because of course.

The show is Then She Fell (NYTimes Review), and it’s akin to the likes of Sleep No More, the kind of theater without stage or seats or curtains or concessions. The kind of theater with a sort-of story, where every moment, every room, every prop and every step is carefully choreographed to completely carry you away from the world outside, and no two participants have the same experience by the time the final act closes.

A period piece, Then She Fell blends fact and fiction, the real life of Lewis Carroll and his best known story, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll is there, walking the halls and sharing his story, alongside the Red Queen, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. And not one but two Alices draw out their own tale, including a particularly moving dance sequence mirroring each other’s fluid moves.

Where Sleep No More is a sweeping, multi-level experience with a large crowd rushing between floors to catch a glimpse of a disjointed MacBeth-ish plot – replete with masks and a moratorium on conversation, Then She Fell allows only 15 spectators per show, instantly creating a more intimate experience. That each audience member is ushered through the show in a deliberate manner only adds to the sense of inclusion in a trippy, anything-can-happen performance.

In the course of the evening, I was witness to the aforementioned dance sequence; took dictation for Carroll himself; was offered a hat by thy Mad Hatter; was read a bedtime story by the White Queen; brushed Alice’s hair while she asked me about love; sat in on a lively, confusing tea party; and more.

Having seen Sleep No More in December and being awed by every single minute of it, if I’m being quite honest I’d admit that Then She Fell struck me as a bit like it’s younger, less-developed cousin. Unmistakably smaller in scale and budget, it’s nonetheless as original and intriguing as its better-known relation.

So far, this whole saying yes to experience thing is paying off.