Sleep No More

A Punchdrunk theatrical presentation by Emursive running through July 9 (extended).

Atmosphere only gets you so far, and with few exceptions, atmosphere was all I got from Sleep No More, a site-specific theatrical presentation in an extravagantly modded-out warehouse on 27th Street. Performers slink down the dark corridors in between elaborately choreographed scenes in the elaborately decorated rooms—followed all the while by a free-roaming audience wearing creepy white plague masks—and it’s all very moody and portentous. Honestly, though, once I got over the novelty of the thing, that moody portentousness started to feel hollow.

I hesitate to be too catty on this point, however, because I suspect part of the problem was a simple lack of compatibility between me and the show. Yes, audience members are free to wander wherever they like, but to get much out of the story, they really ought to follow the performers to catch the scenes. This leads to mobs of people tailing the characters through the building, rushing en masse up staircases, and squeezing tightly into too-small rooms, and my inclination, when faced with these scenarios, was always to flinch and head off in the opposite direction. Occasionally, I’d sigh and find a place in the back of the room, near a doorway, but this didn’t always afford me a great view, and I burned out on the whole claustrophobic ordeal after about an hour, so I’ll readily admit that I didn’t get the complete Sleep No More experience. That being said, what I did experience struck me as rather shallow.