All the World’s a Stage: Interactive Play Provides a Night To Remember

“Sleep No More” is a unique work of theater that gives the audience an unsettling and immersive experience. (Courtesy of o+m Company)

“Sleep No More” is a unique work of theater that gives the audience an unsettling and immersive experience. (Courtesy of o+m Company)


A blend of several modes of artistic expression, as well as a subversion of their predicted functions, interactive off-Broadway play “Sleep No More” conjures up a thoroughly original and utterly beguiling experience. While it is not as frightening as the title makes it out to be, “Sleep No More” makes for a night that is hard to forget.

“Sleep No More” is a unique work of theater that gives the audience an unsettling and immersive experience. (Courtesy of o+m Company)

The format of “Sleep No More” is quite unlike anything you have encountered before. While it acknowledges Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as inspiration, there is no clear, definite plot to the events that it presents. In addition, the performers that populate the space do not even speak.

Instead, “Sleep No More” offers a less straightforward and more abstract experience. Attendees are handed masks and given free reign to explore several floors of the McKittrick Hotel, a Chelsea warehouse that has been painstakingly transformed to resemble parts of a hotel from the early 20th century, and expected to observe the wordless yet expressive trysts and interactions of its inhabitants. The fact that there are more than a dozen actors simultaneously performing within the space means that you see happenings that others won’t and may be inclined to follow the travails of one particular performer— the experience to be had is completely subjective. You are given the enticing opportunity to make the story up for yourself.

And what an intense and immersive story it is. Although the space that the work takes place in is called the McKittrick Hotel, it also includes unsettling areas decorated to resemble locales such as a graveyard and an insane asylum. The activities of the inhabitants, which include everyone from a man methodically sewing to a particularly athletic couple partaking in a round of erotically charged acrobatics in a cramped phone booth in the hotel lobby to what can best be described as a strobe light dance party, are all laced with differing levels of eeriness and uneasiness.

We do not know exactly what these figures are up to and what the motivations and ramifications are, but it does not feel right. The performers remain steadfastly unaware of the attendees with the exception of a few instances when a performer may break the fourth wall when a lucky audience member is brought to his or her attention, resulting in a temporary connection that may involve taking the audience member by the hand and parading the audience member around the vicinity or making the audience member the subject of the actor’s gaze. One may interpret the audience of attendees, roaming around the premises in masks and watching over the proceedings, as the ghosts that are conjuring up the unsettling atmosphere of the events that unfold.

“Sleep No More” is not some terrifying haunted house attraction; the effect is creepy but not too much so as to keep it from being at times playfully enjoyable. While esoteric, it is a fully satisfying experience. The fact that you are not able to see all the happenings and know all the events actually adds to its power; upon leaving the McKittrick Hotel you may feel that you are leaving another world shrouded in mysteries and secrets that are just starting to reveal themselves.