Los Angeles Theater/Event Review: DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE (Haunted Play)

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by Jason Rohrer on October 4, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Last October, Hollywood stuntman Jon Braver put up Delusion, a much-celebrated high-end haunted house.  One of Mr. Braver’s purposes with this project, which he wrote, directed, and produced, was to correct what he saw as a tired tendency toward “jump-out-of-the-corner” type scares in the haunted houses he visited.  He added narrative to this bag of tricks, and in order to give the project a cinematic point of view he enlisted stunt-riggers of his acquaintance.  The show was a sensation, but high production costs and a short run meant Delusion essentially broke even, and scared fewer Angelenos than it might have done.  But among the show’s admirers was Neil Patrick Harris, who this year has partnered with Mr. Braver to co-produce a new incarnation, Delusion: The Blood Rite.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los AngelesThis year, the show features a new interactive script, new stunts, close to twenty performers, a decrepit mansion in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, a taco truck in the courtyard, and a tequila bar on the patio.  Mr. Harris’s contributions to the show, aside from creative input on magic effects, include professional production management (Brandon Wardell and Sarah Glendening), a stage management consultant (Morgan Zupanski), and lots of cash.  According to Mr. Braver, this is an extraordinarily expensive show to mount and run.  It may yet redeem itself and overcome its obstacles, but as of opening weekend, all that money and management had yet to shape an experience that would withstand a few surprises from the patrons without being knocked askew.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los AngelesThe show is supposed to run at quarter-hourly intervals from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m., and only ten or a dozen people are supposed to engage in the experience at a time, but one may arrive at one’s appointment time and still wait an hour for the tour to begin.  The interactive nature of the show may have something to do with this, as may the number of walk-up patrons, but so does bad management.  It was explained to me that “sometime within the hour of arrival” seems a fair time for the show to start, as far as the management is concerned.  From an audience perspective, an hour may seem a long time to stand around on a brick courtyard with no place to sit.  An adventurous spirit is one thing, but boredom and discomfort are two.  The only waiting area with any potential distraction, aside from that extraordinarily prosaic and mood-deflating food truck, is the bar, cleverly situated off the courtyard, down some steps on a hillside.  Unlike the taco wagon, the bar has been decorated to reflect the spirit of the occasion.  The existing brickwork makes for a few nooks and bench-type accoutrements, but again, there’s little in the way of amusement unless one likes to stand and guzzle.  Now, a couple of drinks may sound like just the thing before a voluntary thrill ride, but that depends on the nature of the ride.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los AngelesThe tour proper begins when a costumed guide assembles a particular group in the yard.  This sets a creepy mood, but does not help to orient the participants to much except one another.  Certain rules of decorum are haphazardly offered – one should not speak to the performers unless asked direct questions; one should not touch the performers – but, in a show that turns out to be heavy on exposition, an opportunity is lost to get some of the story elements in place.  The tour members led through a makeshift graveyard (set design by Kellie Tinney), in which a first burst of exposition booms from hidden speakers.  This loop of recorded speech about one’s relationship to, and history with, the property adds a vague sense that one may be missing something important, because there’s no time to listen to it.  Up ahead there’s some interaction with a foul-mouthed performer, then screams come from the house, someone jumps from an upstairs window in a classic movie dive.  Who was it?  Who stands behind her in the window?  The tour is never informed, or if it is, the information’s easy to miss.  Finally, the tour starts banging on the front door to be let into the mansion, a wait that may take five or ten more minutes of mild entertainment by a performer not particularly schooled in extemporaneous crowd work.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los AngelesThis is one of those shows in which the audience interaction is circumscribed by a fragile script dependent almost wholly on the goodwill of the participants.  When producing such a show, one would do well to control the patrons’ liquor intake.  As soon as the tour enters the house, a performer launches into a very long speech delineating her family history, tour members’ prior experience of that family, the various ongoing intra-familial feuds, and some other information I can’t relate because there was too much of it and because so little of it added value to the events that followed.  Exposition should exist in direct ratio to its dramatic value, and Blood Rite has too much for even someone who wants to help the thing along to pay attention to, let alone a drunken idiot who just wants to mess around – three of whom constituted a fourth of my tour.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los AngelesThe various performers insist that participants hunt for clues and props that will assist in the tour’s progress – a journal entry, a key, a vial of blood.  This, while other performers of the jump-out-of-the-corner variety do their best to frighten.  Some of these performers do pretty cool stunts (rigged by David Hugghins, operated by Josh Bushueff), but as with comedy, scares depend on timing.  And when the tour member with the key forgets he has it, or hides it in his pocket, or wanders off the tour into the dark, the experience breaks down.  Then a guy crawling down the wall may be noticed at the wrong moment, and a sight gag involving a perspective down a hallway may be lost to half of the group due to some drunk trying to provide his own scares, because he’s bored and I can’t blame him.  Many of the scenarios the tour makes its way through – a child (ghost? alive? can’t tell you) holding a kidnapped tour member at knifepoint, a dance with a fat ghoul who morphs into a svelte one — depend on a level of mood and acting ability not present for my experience, either because these elements were thrown off by those extracurricular hijinks or because the whole thing just wasn’t tight enough yet to be called a good show.

There’s excellent work done here, and that much of it is lost within a hurly-burly of noise and nonsense may be a problem correctable with a few pointed rehearsals and some scissoring of monologues.  I hope so, because there’s much to admire in the intent, if not the execution, of this event.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of DELUSION: THE BLOOD RITE by Haunted Play in Los Angeles

photos courtesy of Haunted Play

Delusion: The Blood Rite
presented by Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Braverman, and Haunted Play at The Mansion
2218 S. Harvard Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018
scheduled to end on November 10, 2012 EXTENDED through December 9, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.hauntedplay.com/

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rose Costello October 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I attended Delusion with my husband on our wedding anniversary 10/13/12 and I found our experience one of the BEST Halloween events we have ever gone to. We are thrill seekers, love to be scared, the creepier the better. This was by far the BEST mind blowing, freaky, interactive experience we have ever had. We were in a group of 12 and either people would volunteer or be picked to do things to get room to room. The storyline made tons of sense. We listened to the recording outside at the start. The characters all made sense. When no one volunteered to go get the key from grandma in the bathtub down the longest hallway of my life, my husband pushed my forward and before I knew it I felt like I was indeed in a horror movie with NO way out. Let’s just say I became part of the show. Amazing, nothing could prepare me for what happened but I am now so glad I participated and would I do it again? Heck YES!!!!


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