Matt and I got up Sunday morning and took the subway down to Madison Square Park, where we found the Flatiron Building waiting for us.
We arrived just as Eataly opened, and it was strange to see the store nearly empty. We wandered aimlessly for a while, since Wendy and Amelia were coming down to join us at some point. We decided to wait to shop since it sounded like they’d be a while, and headed back to the subway instead. We figured we could ride down and see the West 4th Street Courts, and then come back and meet them.
We went down the stairs, scanned our passes in the gates, and then realized the trains there were headed the wrong direction. We went back upstairs, crossed the street, and went down the stairs on the other side. That’s when we learned that if you scan your pass more often than every 18 minutes, it won’t let you use it. Which is REALLY DUMB.
Rather than wait around for 18 minutes, we went back over to Eataly. The Marimekko store next door had just opened, so we went in there and I bought my required purse, plus a few other things. Then we went to Eataly and picked out our picnic food, wandered aimessly, gawked at the produce, and searched in vain for a bottle opener for the beer we were buying.
Wendy and Amelia still hadn’t arrived, so we walked over to a Walgreens and 7-11 in search of a bottle opener. Neither of them had them, which was really strange. We decided to go sit at the park across the street and wait.
We sat there watching a running class in progress, people sprinting around the park and being encouraged by way-too-enthusiastic trainers. We also watched people getting sandwiches at Shake Shack, and I was a little sad we weren’t in need of a meal. We finally heard from Wendy and Amelia, having arrived to do their shopping. We met them outside the store and walked to the subway, where we were permitted to use our passes again. Oh, and we found a liquor store along the way, so we were finally able to obtain the bottle opener we needed.
We rode up to Central Park, and walked in a ways to find a spot for a picnic. The weather was perfect, and we picked a spot on a hillside overlooking the amusement park. Our picnic consisted of fig bread, cheese, fruit, and beer. Delicious.
We said bye to Wendy and Amelia and walked up the west side of Central Park to the subway station at the Dakota. We hopped on the train and rode back to the hotel, where we dropped off my gigantic Marimekko bag (which I’d gotten pretty tired of carrying around). Since we had a long walk ahead of us that evening, we decided to change and wander over to the Algonquin to have a drink in their super-famous lobby bar.
The place was quiet and comfortable, and the servers all seemed to be old guys. There’s a cat named Matilda who lives in the lobby, and the front desk staff was hauling her out from behind the counter and putting her on the desk for people to see. Matilda did not seem thrilled about it.
Post-drinks, we walked to the train and rode over to Chelsea. It was another long walk from there to the McKittrick Hotel, where we had tickets for Sleep No More at 6pm. It was a little after 5pm, so we rode up to the rooftop bar, called Gallow Green. We got cocktails, and found a table under an arbor. The rooftop was really pretty and the weather was still glorious, so we wished we had longer to hang out there.
Jumi came up to join us after a bit (she’d been wandering doing nerdy things all day), and then it was time to head into the show. We rode back downstairs and waited in line to get into the hotel. (The ‘hotel’ is actually a set of three warehouses they converted for the show.) We headed inside, and were instructed to leave everything at the coat check – purses, phones, and everything. Matt brought cash for the bar, and that was about it.
From the moment we walked in, everything was dimly-lit. The check-in desk handed each of us a playing card for the show. Matt and I had 7s, and Jumi got a 6. A lady punched a hole in our cards, put her finger to her mouth and whispered, “Shhhhh!”, and pointed us up the stairs. We headed up into complete darkness, through a series of winding hallways. I couldn’t see anything, and clung to Matt’s shirt lest we get separated.
We finally emerged into a parlor area that was entirely red velvet. There were small tables around a stage, bartenders pouring champagne drinks, and a very unusual lady doing spoken-word bits on stage. We got drinks and a table, and figured out what was going on; they were staging people for entrance by number, according to the cards you were holding. We hung out for a while, and then they called our group.
We were all handed Venetian-carnival-style masks to put on. They were hard white plastic with huge pointy birdlike noses. It was hella creepy seeing crowds of people wearing them. We piled into an elevator with about 15 other people, and the guy running the elevator explained how it worked: you were free to wander wherever you wanted, and they encouraged you to pick an actor or group of actors and follow them around to watch the story unfold. We were also supposed to investigate everything that we found along the way, but we were not supposed to talk to each other; they encouraged us to separate so we could all experience it individually. The elevator stopped on a top floor, and the door opened and one person walked out. The guy running the elevator quickly slammed the door behind them, and we rode to another level. Suddenly I did become kind of nervous about losing Matt and Jumi, because I had no intention of wandering around there by myself.
We got out on the third floor, and decided to go up a level rather than following the crowd into the building. We found that floor mostly empty, and the first room we entered looked like a creepy hospital room, lined with cots. The room was super-dark, so we had to use the tiny lamps to read all the crazy handwritten medical charts we found on all the walls and tables. There was an outline of a person on one of the cots that appeared at first to be made of stones, but it was actually potatoes. I DON’T KNOW.
One of the next rooms was even darker, and it was a graveyard. There were tombstones and piles of dirt everywhere. Then there was a room of bathtubs, and a forest maze that I was pretty sure we’d end up trapped in. In one corner there was a hut made of twigs, and a pair of actors came rushing past and ran inside. We tried to open the door to follow them in, but one of the guides gestured to discourage us. Instead we went around the side of the hut and peered through cracks in the walls to watch them. There’s something about the show that turns you into a really creepy voyeur.
After being thoroughly freaked out by that whole thing, we went down to the third floor. There was a series of bedrooms and parlors there, and they all smelled strongly of mothballs. We rifled through drawers and looked at photos. The drawers contained things like bird feathers, stones, notes, and jewelry. Then we wandered into what appeared to be a battlefield, with falling-down walls, broken statues and crumbling foundations laid out like a maze. That room led into a bedroom with a bathtub right in the middle of it, and that’s where we found Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. He was naked in the tub, washing off blood. They didn’t really speak so much as shout meaningless words, gesticulate, and rush around in a dancelike, incredibly gymnastic way. They were fighting, lifting each other up, walking on the walls, and doing flips and jumps all over the room.
There was a large crowd standing around watching them, and we’d all have to shift around as they rushed around the room. Seeing this crowd of blank-masked people standing in a tight circle and staring was really incredibly creepy. There were windows into the room from the battlefield area with cloudy, broken glass, and you could see masks peering in from there, too. The crowd was entirely silent, occasionally gesturing at each other when they were ready to move on.
Macbeth eventually went tearing out of the room, and a large group went running after him. We decided to hang back a little and went downstairs. There we found a village full of shops and offices, and several actors wandering in and out. There was a tailor, a doctor, a taxidermist, a candy shop, a detective office, and a few other things. We watched some of the actors fighting in the hallway (I think one of them was MacDuff, but it was hard to keep track of who was who), and one of them walked across the ceiling supported by the other actor. It was kind of amazing.
As we squeezed down a dark hallway, a couple other actors came tearing past and went into the little room we were about to enter. A bunch of people followed them in, and Matt walked through the door. I was about to go in when one of the actors pushed me back (he was soaking wet, by the way) and slammed the door. Jumi and I just stared at each other, shocked. I was pretty sure my husband was going to be murdered by Macbeth.
We lingered around outside the door for a while, and finally it opened and he escaped. They’d apparently been having some kind of interrogation in there, and he was part of a small crowd that got to witness it.
At one point we were in the taxidermists’ office poking around at stuff on a desk, when suddenly an actor came running in followed by a crowd who crammed into the room. I ended up stuck directly next to his desk, where I had to watch him flop a raven on his table and start stabbing it with pins. I know it was fake, but holy crap. I was so happy to escape after that.
After wandering around that level for a while, we headed downstairs. It had been a couple hours, and people seemed to be moving toward the ballroom on the lower level. A bunch of actors were dancing in there, so we watched that and then went to look around the fake hotel lobby and restaurant (which had a ton of silverware glued into crosses lining the walls… it was pretty awesome). We circled around there for a while, and started to realize that we’d basically seen everything. (We learned later that that wasn’t even close to true – we’d missed an entire level with naked witches dancing, and a bar – but it still felt that way.) We kept going down stairways and passages and ending up in the same place, so I was wondering how the hell we were even supposed to get out of there when we were done. Suddenly there was a lot of movement from the actors, so we picked one and joined the crowd that was tailing him around the building. He ran down the stairs into the ballroom, and as we emerged there we realized that the vast majority of the spectators in the building were there too.
People kept entering the room, and the actors got up on the stage for the final scene. I couldn’t get over how remarkable it was that they’d managed to round up a 5-story building full of people and get them all into the same place at the same time with no actual prompting. It just worked out that way.
(For a far better writeup than I can provide, please read the NYT piece on Sleep No More. We want to go back and see the things we missed!)
After the show, we all piled out into the lobby to collect our things. We got to keep the scary-ass masks, which was awesome. We made the mistake of walking out without going to the bathroom or having a drink of water or anything (much less dinner), so it only took a few blocks to realize that was going to be a problem. I had to stop at a convenience store for water, Jumi has to rush into a restaurant and use their bathroom, and Matt had to stop at Dunkin Donuts to use their restroom, too. It was a long walk back to the train, and we were all store from our million miles of walking. (Who thought it was a good idea to wear high-heel sandals to walk all over NYC, by the way? Oh right, that was me.)
It was well past dinnertime at that point, so we decided to go get some fancy drinks instead. (It made sense at the time.) We took the train to Grand Central Station, and went up a level from the main lobby to the Campbell Apartment. Having spent plenty of time at Prohibition at the W Hotel/Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, which also happens to be a former tycoon’s office, we felt right at home there. It was indeed fancy.
We ordered drinks, and noticed they had a cheese plate on their snacks menu, so we got that too. Our server was super-nice and incredibly scatterbrained, but I’m guessing part of that had to do with the fact that it was after 10:30, they were supposedly closing at 11, and a huge wedding party had just walked in the door.
We got our check around 11 and took the train to Times Square, after much debate about whether the Times Square shuttle was actually a bus or a train (it’s a train, sort of like a monorail running between the two stops). Times Square was as shitshowy as usual, plus the baby was there. God, could anyone be creepier? Blech.
At that point we realized that we’d actually not really eaten any dinner, so we decided to stop at the Long Room again, across the street from our hotel. As we arrived, we saw a big crowd in the street outside the Belasco, where NPH’s run as Hedwig had just ended. We walked up to see what was up, and he was leaving the theater right at that moment. We didn’t see him, but we did get to watch a guy running down the street shrieking, “NEIL PATRICK HARRIS SIGNED MY FOREHEAD!!!” Awesome.
This time the staff was far more attentive at the Long Room, and we got gin and tonics and more food. We hung out there til a bit before 1am, and then went to the hotel to sleep.