Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects, the immersive-theater masterminds behind Then She Fell, which has been leading audiences down the rabbit hole for five years at the Kingsland Ward at St. John’s in Williamsburg, and The Grand Paradise, which took guests on an unusual island vacation last year in a renovated Bushwick warehouse, have now moved uptown to Lincoln Center, where Ghost Light continues at LCT3’s Claire Tow Theater through August 6. The show, conceived, directed, and choreographed by two of the company’s founding artistic directors, Zach Morris and Jennine Willett, is an unpredictable journey through nearly every nook and cranny of the Claire Tow, from storage closets, hallways, and dressing rooms to the balcony, the break room, and the inner stairway. Named for the electric light that is left on in a theater for safety reasons even when no one is there, the two-hour show has a premise involving ghosts that never quite comes to fruition, but most everything else is a complete blast. The audience is divided into groups again and again — don’t expect to spend the entire evening with the companion you came with — as they are guided through multiple areas, where actors share stories about the backstage machinations of creating the magic of theater. My journey began with a silly Shakespeare scene in which everyone was given a task, from holding up a mirror to help a woman check her hair to putting on fake armor and participating in a dress rehearsal complicated by personal drama. Shortly after that, we’re spying on a man (Edward Rice) and a woman (Julia Kelly) having a secret rendezvous, which feels long and extraneous. But everything that follows is far more intriguing and entertaining, including a beautifully choreographed dance in the main theater with a diva (Roxanne Kid) and a well-dressed gentleman (Cameron Michael Burns).
Other highlights include a splendid monologue by a sad Beckett-like clown (Ryan Wuestewald); the diva having a breakdown in a stairwell; Sam the janitor (Josh Matthews) explaining some important maintenance details; an intimate song by the would-be Shakespearean lead (Elizabeth Carena); and the swirling organized chaos that occurs moments before the curtain goes up. It is often difficult to know which sets have been designed by Brett J. Banakis (Big Love, Coriolanus) and which are just the way the Claire Tow is; I was particularly fond of two small spaces occupied by dozens of miniature sets, trying to see if I could recognize previous Lincoln Center Theater productions. There are also plenty of inside jokes, terrific costumes by Montana Levi Blanco (Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, War), and splendid work by Alberto Denis as the stage manager as well as the real stage manager (Kristina Vnook) and assistant stage managers (Stephanie Armitage, Nick Auer, Jack Cummins), who might just have the most difficult jobs of everyone while blurring the distinction between the show and the show-within-a-show. (The large, valiant cast also includes Rebekah Morin, Joshua Dutton-Reaver, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O’Con, Niko Tsocanos, Jessy Smith, Carlton Cyrus Ward, and Donna Ahmadi as the usher.) In many ways, it’s like a miniature Sleep No More, except you can’t follow your own path. Ghost Light shines a fun and fascinating light on the creation of theater, mysterious ghosts and all.