This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



(photo by Caleb Sharp)

PARADISO: CHAPTER 1 takes participants through a narrative-based series of futuristic noir escape rooms (photo by Caleb Sharp)

Exact Korea Town location given to ticketholders day of performance
Wednesday - Sunday through November 15, $40-$60

Innovative theater impresario Michael Counts takes escape rooms to the next level in the fun and exciting narrative-driven Paradiso: Chapter 1. Counts, the pioneer behind such productions as The Walking Dead Experience tourist attraction, Rossini’s Moses in Egypt for New York City Opera at City Center, Philharmonic 360 for the New York Philharmonic at the Park Avenue Armory, The Ride New York, and Monodramas for NYCO at Lincoln Center, has teamed up with coproducer Jennifer Worthington, previously senior vice president of Jerry Bruckheimer Films, to present Paradiso: Chapter 1, in which groups of up to ten people must make their way through a series of locked rooms in sixty minutes. Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, the three-part fourteenth-century epic poem in which Dante travels into the nine circles of hell and the nine spheres of heaven (Counts previously incorporated the work into So Long I Can’t Remember: A Divine Comedy in a DUMBO warehouse in 2001), Paradiso: Chapter 1 is set in the Virgil Corporation, in a building in Korea Town; the exact address is emailed to ticketholders on the day of the performance. Attendees must work together in unison in order to solve different kinds of games and puzzles in this obstacle course for the mind in which anything can be a critical clue; everyone needs to pay close attention and call out possibilities if you don’t want to fail. In several rooms actors not only drive the futuristic noir narrative, which is fraught with a cinematic type of danger, but also can provide hints if you ask the right questions.

The crew, which keeps it all moving on the fast track — the next group is thirty minutes behind yours — includes lighting designer Ryan O’Gara (Hamilton, Play/Date), art director and associate scenic designer Katie Fleming (Sleep No More, Empire Travel Agency), sound designer and associative creative director Caleb Sharp (Play/Date, The Walking Dead Experience), and production and technical director Gabriel Evansohn (The Tenant, Queen of the Night), with video design by BeSide Digital. The rotating cast consists of Joe Laureiro, Karen Li, Tim Haber, Claire Sanderson, Sarah Jun, Macy Idzakovich, Caitlin Davis, Brian Alford, and Paris Crayton III. Although we had a blast navigating Paradiso: Chapter 1 with strangers — we made it through with seconds to spare — you can make reservations of up to ten people at a time, filling the slots with friends. But you do need to jell pretty quickly in order to solve the puzzles; after the “show,” Counts told us the proportion of groups who make it through to the end, but we’re not telling. (Let’s just say that not everyone survives.) If you give yourself over to it, it’s quite a thrill, a maze in which everything matters, but to say any more would start giving things away, and Paradiso: Chapter 1 is best discovered on your own. And yes, as the title suggests, there will be more chapters to come. We can’t wait.

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