Like descending into madness — or falling in love — you start down a set of ivied stairs. In the courtyard, the roses are white and red. Then a nurse asks for your name. This is not your average garden; this is not your average night of theater.
"Then She Fell" is a new iteration of an immersive theater piece that's been lovingly honed for several years by Third Rail Projects, originating as the Steampunk Haunted House from 2009-2011. In the current rendition, which takes place onsite at what used to be Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn, visitors tour a psychiatric ward where characters from "Alice in Wonderland" begin to unspool the real and speculative elements of the courtship between Charles Dodgson — who wrote as Lewis Carroll in the late 19th century — and his young friend Alice Liddell.
Playing on the theme of the looking glass, it's not uncommon for a mirror to become a window, a window to become a door and a door to become a passage into another realm. Armed with a ring of skeleton keys, audience members — limited to 15 per performance — venture through a lush and labyrinthine setting, exploring spaces such as medical wards, boudoirs and a millinery. They are invited to spy on intimate dance sequences, unlock hideaways, rifle through drawers and experience interactive, one-on-one scenarios with characters such as the Alices (Tara O'Con and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus), the White Rabbit (Tom Pearson) and the Red Queen (Rebekah Morin). Perhaps most intriguing is the Mad Hatter (Elizabeth Carena); she is plagued with existential questions about what it means to live only as her creator's afterthought. The ambience includes music, slamming doors and phantom prose. There are also "Eat Me" and "Drink Me" interludes where guests sample small vegetarian bites and alcoholic sips to aid the full-sensory experience.
Though we'd love to highly recommend the show, it's sold out for the remainder of its run through Nov. 18. "Then She Fell" aims for a Manhattan reincarnation in 2013. If you can get your hands on a ticket, we advise that you take the chance to escape your usual passive play perspective and tarry down this rabbit hole.