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I’m wearing a long, white mask watching a simulated orgy in a rave atmosphere — music thumps, lights strobe, topless women and a naked man gyrate feet away from me. I watch, impassively, with a few dozen other voyeurs. Suddenly there’s blood, but it doesn’t faze me. As if I watch a blood orgy every day.
Earlier in the night, I stood nearby while a couple danced with frenzied passion then climbed up the walls in a wild, effortless yet completely inhuman display. So the blood stuff doesn’t strike me as weird. Nothing is weird when everything is weird.
The orgy ends and a few of the participants rush off. Several people in masks sprint after them, so quickly that a gust of air rushes past me as they go. I hesitate, realize that I won’t catch them, and wander off to another part of the hotel, sure that wherever I go something interesting awaits. This is the experience of seeing Punchdrunk’s play, Sleep No More, housed in a repurposed warehouse in Chelsea, New York.
Sleep No More is a reimagining of Macbeth inside of a truly enormous five-story building. It’s full-on immersive theater — the action moves around you, actors push past you to get to their marks, and you wander the space with no earthly idea of where you should be headed. It’s a departure from the typical Broadway show, but it’s also uniquely New York. After all, how many cities can manage such a spectacle at this scale?
If you’re going to New York City and only going to see one show, this just might be the trip to skip Broadway and check out Sleep No More. Here’s how to make it happen.
Sleep No More is located at McKittrick Hotel, which isn’t a real hotel at all but a converted warehouse. After arriving, you explore at your leisure. As the characters move through the rooms performing their arcs, you can follow certain actors or you can let yourself happen upon the action. You might end up digging through a drawer in an office or walking through a dark graveyard when a character will rush into the room — to fight, to kiss, to kill, to dance. Whatever happens, it’s always captivating. There’s almost no talking. The production is mostly movement-based — unless you’re one of the people who gets pulled into a tree house by a witch and kept there, being whispered to for 20 minutes.
You’ll find the McKittrick hotel at 530 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001. It’s right near The High Line — a beautiful park built on old elevated subway tracks. It’s absolutely worth arriving to the area early — maybe in the late afternoon — and taking a stroll. Tickets retail from $99.50.