While other New Yorkers were going to costume parties or trick-or-treating with their kids, I spent Halloween night in a political house of horrors deep in Brooklyn. Through November 6, Creative Time, the New York City nonprofit arts organization that has presented such outstanding site-specific projects as Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” at the abandoned Domino Sugar Factory, “Drifting in Daylight” in Central Park, Mike Nelson’s “A Psychic Vacuum” in the Old Essex Street Market, and Duke Riley’s “Fly by Night” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has now turned its attention to the state of the nation as a contentious and perverse presidential election comes to a close. Mexican multidisciplinary artist and activist Pedro Reyes’s labyrinthine, Dada-esque Doomocracy has taken over the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where a dozen people at a time are guided through a series of scripted vignettes that deal with police brutality, voting rights, school safety, corporate greed, the health-care system, climate change, pollution, the unequal distribution of wealth, drone attacks, and other hot-button issues.
Directed by Meghan Finn, written by Paul Hufker, and curated by Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson, Doomocracy is fully interactive; after being hauled into a van and driven to a secret spot, you will be pushed and prodded, get yelled at, be forced to climb four flights of stairs, burrow through a narrow corridor, and play a game of soccer over the course of about sixty minutes. Some of the scenarios are goofier than others, constructed with a low-budget DIY sensibility that you just have to go with, but they all make their points (although there’s a serious flaw in the abortion-related room), revealing the darker sides of America that we seem powerless to stop. The cast features more than thirty actors; standouts include Marjorie Conn as a voting poll receptionist, Matthew Korahais as a ghoulish coffin salesman, Carolina Do as a futuristic artisanal air saleswoman, and Joseph Gregori as a park ranger who offers the best surprise of the night. And it’s a thrill just walking through the nearly century-old army terminal, which was designed by Cass Gilbert during WWI to serve as a military depot and supply base and currently functions as an industrial warehouse and commercial complex managed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The fully booked Doomocracy also fits in well with the recent Escape Room craze, where people have to solve puzzles to proceed, but in this case there appears to be no real way out from this endless national nightmare.