Off-Broadway Review: SLEEP NO MORE (Punchdrunk Theatre Company at McKittrick Hotel)

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by Tony Frankel on April 27, 2023

in Theater-New York


No plague can kill a great show. It’s back. In a rare clash of film noir, performance art, an awesome murder mystery party, and Shakespeare, Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is the ultimate voyeuristic thrill. Audience members don Venetian masks and explore the depths of the 1930s-style McKittrick Hotel in pursuit of the dubious characters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who run amuck throughout. The painstakingly detailed set — which is the entire hotel — will have you digging through suitcases, desk drawers, and bookshelves in a desperate, darkly gleeful search of any dirt you can find on your favorite social climbers, the Macbeths. The hunt goes on all night, interrupted by witches climbing up walls, the nuevo-royalty taking a quick bath to wash blood off their hands, and (if you’re in the right room) an occasional murder. The slo-mo dinner party in the gigantic banquet room was simply too cool.

Each of these major scenes is acted in silence, or should I say performed dance-style or even lip-synched (I accidentally came upon a man perfectly voicing Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” in a nightclub. So Shakespeare is not really in focus here — in fact, you get only whiffs of plot. Even if you are quick enough to pursue a character that intrigues you, it’s pretty difficult to discern exactly who you’re following — that doesn’t really become clear until the very end, if you make it that long (you can stay inside the hotel for up to three hours). And yet, it’s hard not to get swept into the chase.

The cast is highly engaging, and nimbly darts in and out of rooms, up and down stairs, all the while maintaining a mysterious air about them so that you simply can’t resist trying to follow. It’s more than challenging to name anyone in particular, but the witches are particularly exciting to watch; if you can figure out who they are, they’re especially worth the pursuit. Punchdrunk may not deal much with the depths of Macbeth in Sleep No More, but they’ve turned it into an even more visceral, exciting theatrical event than any other production of the Scottish Tragedy you are likely to see. It’s not to be missed. And when you’re done playing on four floors, you can relax watching a jazz band while you sip on cocktails.

photos by Robin Roemer and Umi Akiyoshi

Sleep No More
Punchdrunk Theatre Company
McKittrick Hotel, 530 W. 27th Street
open run
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit Sleep No More
each performance has different arrival times

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