Then She Fell: An Immersive Maze Down a Rabbit’s Hole into an Asylum.
Wandering out to Williamsburg in order to fall down a rabbit’s hole and find oneself in the insane asylum at The Kingsland Ward, St. Johns, a century-old institutional building, filled with the crazy characters that populate Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books feels like quite the adventure through the looking glass. Although not difficult to get to (just 2 blocks off of the L train at Grand Street), I do wish I wasn’t traveling down this path all on my own that cold wintery night, although how this spectacle is orchestrated, the solo experience is just as beautiful and poetic regardless of companionship. Separated from others almost instantly Then She Fell, a product of Third Rail Projects, is a fascinating and unique experience, resembling but quite different from the successful and intense Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. In that production, that has run for over 6 years (opening March 7, 2011), they take their spectators through an artful and conjured creation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at an exhilarating high speed pace through the McKittrick Hotel. It’s quite a self created adventure, where all of your own choices construct your experience as you run up and down stairs chasing a favorite character. This production, at first felt like it was going to be much the same when thrown into a room on my own to peruse an assortment of hats and discarded letters, but that was basically my only solitary moment of the night, as the Mad Hatter, played mischievously by Alex Schell interrupted my solitary exploration and pushed me forward into a dreamy and slightly madcap experience. I was, from that moment on, coaxed on a journey that felt guided and controlled, while also maintaining an air of mystery and wonderment, accompanied by a magnificent and musical score by Sean Hagerty.
As constructed, choreographed, and orchestrated by Zach Morris, Tom Pearson and Jennine Willett, this graceful and mischievous telling of the complexities of Lewis Carrol, played compellingly by Gierre J. Godley (at least at the performance I attended, the cast rotates among many) and his questionable relationship with the young Alice, played by two similarly looking and dressed young ladies, Kristen Carcone and Jenna Purcell, is teased out at various moments and degrees. Using letter dictation, wonderful mirror play, and a lot of modern dance and movement, the sly details and suspicions are parceled out. These choreographed compositions are a huge part of the journey from room to room, suggesting a somewhat sexual and romantic attraction between the young girl and the writer whose actual name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The movement is powerful while giving a great insight to the parallels and layers between real people and imaginary characters and situations. Sometimes the creations begin to feel repetitive and not overly thought-expanding, although they all are dreamy and visually appealing especially in their staging and the manner we are privy to them. While Sleep No More has testosterone and heart pounding exhilaration, Then She Fell feels more wistful, elegant, and passively romantic.
One of the better moments is when we get to secretly watch the red queen, portrayed aggressively by Taylor Semin and the White Rabbit play out power and control in a sensual dance around a sitting room. We are lead by the White Queen, a charming Roxanne Kidd, to watch like sneaky children hiding in another room peeking in on adults engaging in something mysterious and naughty. There is also a magical bit of card play, wonderfully conjured by the impressive Doctor, Charly Wenzel, and a number of sly and sexy staring contests (or so it felt to me) with Orderly Robinson and the White Rabbit, played crisply by Jeff Sykes and Kyle Castillo, two among numerous others. If direct eye contact makes you uncomfortable or want to giggle, this might not be the show for you.
The sequence of rooms and experiences will vary for each and everyone. I started with the Mad Hatter, and was led to two Alices doing a hypnotizing mirror dance, ate some oranges and was gestured forward. Yours, I’m sure will Be something completely different. It’s a moody and intoxicating evening, and not just because we are given numerous alcoholic beverages to drink down. We are pulled through a dreamy and eerie kaleidoscope of images and ideas, well structured and timed throughout a tightly choreographed two hours. And when all is said and done, we find ourselves drinking a glass of tea and ushered back out by the ward’s assistants, Gabriela Gowdie, Bree Doobay, and Kasey Blanco, into the night. Back into the real world, and only at that moment, did I wish I had a companion to dissect and compare our unique and different journeys down a rabbit hole, through the halls of an asylum, and back up to the cold Brooklyn streets.
THEN SHE FELL
Directed, designed, written and choreographed: Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett in collaboration with original cast members: Elizabeth Carena, Alberto Denis, Stacie C. Tobar, Rebekah Morin, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O’Con, and Zoë Schieber. It is currently performed by the company: Matthew Albert, Eric Berey, Erika Boudreau-Barbee, Andrew Broaddus, Kyle Castillo, Kristen Carcone, Larry Daniels, Elisa Davis, Caitlin Dutton-Reaver, Julia Galanski, Gierre J. Godley, Joseph Harris, Julia Jurgilewicz, Julia Kelly, Mary Madsen, Lauren Muraski, Jenna Purcell, Alex M. Schell, Taylor Semin, Mackenzie Sherburne, Julie Seal, Jeff Sykes, and Charly Wenzel. Supported by Elizabeth Carena, Alberto Denis, Joshua Dutton-Reaver, Kim Fischer, Rebekah Morin, Taylor Myers, Edward Rice, Kim Savarino, Bre Short, Samuel Swanton, and Madeline Wilcox. Production design by Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett; original music & sound design by Sean Hagerty; costumes by Karen Young; lighting design by Kryssy Wright; production management by Brittany Crowell; assistant direction by Marissa Nielsen-Pincus; rehearsal direction by Julia Kelly; assistant rehearsal direction by Mary Madsen; original technical direction by Carlton C. Ward; wardrobe by TJ Burleson.