The Kingsland Ward at St. Johns
195 Maujer St. between Graham Ave. & Humboldt St.
Wednesday - Sunday through August 26, $135 - $165
Brooklyn’s Third Rail Projects take audiences down a very dark rabbit hole in Then She Fell, an immersive reimagining of Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There set in a fictional mental hospital. The show, which opened in the fall of 2012 at a different location in Greenpoint, has now been extended in its longtime home in a building on Maujer St. that used to be a parochial school. The thrilling experience leads fifteen people at a time across three floors, and every room and hallway offers another chapter in the story; most of the time you will find yourself alone with a character or with only one or two other audience members (probably not those you came with), interacting directly with the narrative — although in a strictly limited way. As you are told in the introduction, you should not speak unless asked to and should not open any closed doors. However, you are given a key to try to unlock various drawers and boxes. Over the course of two hours, you might find yourself being fed grapes, brushing a young woman’s hair in a small, private room, playing an intimate game of poker, relaxing in bed next to a stranger, drinking a shot of an unidentified liquid, taking dictation using an old-fashioned pen and inkwell, or riffling through hospital records and pages torn out of a diary. (Many of the rooms are dimly lit, so bring reading glasses if you need them.) The multidisciplinary show, which features a lot of contemporary dancing, primarily solos and duets, focuses on the perhaps unhealthy relationship Dodgson might have had with Alice Liddell, whom Dodgson photographed and wrote, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for when she was twelve and he was thirty-two. Dodgson had been entertaining the Liddell children with his fanciful stories for several years, but a rift occurred in June 1863 between him and the family; mysteriously, several pages from his diary are missing, apparently now scattered throughout Kingsland Ward.
Since Then She Fell started, Third Rail has gone on to present two more immersive productions in New York City, Ghost Light, which went behind the scenes at Lincoln Center, and The Grand Paradise, a wild vacation set in a Bushwick warehouse. As much fun as those were, there’s something special about Then She Fell; the characters are more fully drawn, the narrative more driven, creating a unique personal experience for each audience member. The cast impeccably guides you through your particular story arc, which has a beginning, a middle, and an end, even though you will see only about two-thirds of what is going on. Alice Liddell and the Alice from the books are played by Kristen Carcone and Jenna Purcell, who merge together in mirrors. Alex Schell is sublimely sexy as the Mad Hatter, while Charly Wenzel is effectively cryptic as the doctor, whose staff includes Gabriela Gowdie, Bree Doobay, Kasey Blanco, and Jeff Sykes as Orderly Robinson, who might have a message for you. Kyle Castillo is the White Rabbit, Taylor Semin is the manipulative Red Queen, and Roxanne Kidd is the alluring White Queen. Meanwhile, Gierre J. Godley appears from time to time as Carroll/Dodgson. The production is intricately written, directed, designed, and choreographed by Third Rail cofounders Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett, with original music and sound design by Sean Hagerty, appropriately creepy lighting by Kryssy Wright, and lovely period costumes by Karen Young. Then She Fell delves into the mind not only of Dodgson/Carroll but of each character, giving them depth and emotional feelings that will immerse you even further into their tale. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes you might not mind spilling ink on; you’ll have to check your coat and any bags at the door, and no cameras or cell phones are allowed. You don’t have to eat or drink what’s offered to you or do anything else you’d rather not, but, as with the best immersive shows — and this is certainly up there with the grand master, Sleep No More — the more you participate, the more you will rejoice in the spirit of it all.