Haunting New York show draws crowds, masked stars

Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:51pm EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A haunted house, it's not. But for theatergoers including many high-profile celebrities hidden behind masks, "Sleep No More" certainly is haunting.

Dubbed "immersive theater" by directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle of British theater company Punchdrunk, the new show compels audience members to roam five floors and almost 100 rooms of the fictional 1930s McKittrick Hotel in search of performances -- small snatches of dance or largely silent scenes between actors -- that will lead them on an adventure.

With nods to the likes of filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, the show sends its audience -- all wearing Venetian beak masks -- drifting though graveyards, creepy corridors and sinister hospitals looking for items and performances that interest them.

Attendees, who are prohibited from talking for the length of the performance, might find a bloody letter or two actors in a panic, then follow them on an adventure into the unknown.

"Sleep No More" is "a lifelike experience where you don't know what's around the corner," Doyle told Reuters.

The show, which opened in April, has thrilled theater fans and extended its run Off-Broadway. It also has attracted a long list of celebrities drawn to the kind of voyeurism they often experience in reverse in their own lives. Included among the audience, who are all required to don white masks similar to those in Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," has been Natalie Portman, Kevin Spacey, Tobey Maguire, Hugh Jackman and Spike Lee.

On one night alone, audience members were unknowingly rubbing elbows with Justin Timberlake, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris. The following night Matt Damon, Emma Stone and Emily Blunt wandered among the crowd.

Part of the attraction is that audience members are able to become lost in a world called "a voyeur's delight" and "a lovely evening in hell" by theater critics.   Continued...

<p>Actor Eric Jackson Bradley performs as Macbeth in a production of "Sleep No More" in New York July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>