I went into the show thinking I’d come out with an answer: which was better? But the truth is, you can’t compare Queen of the Night and Sleep No More. I love them both in different ways. While in Sleep No More, I am a ghost who haunts the story, powerless to help or harm, enchanted to watch, at Queen of the Night I was the Chloe I might be in a fairy tale. I was the Chloe who made eye contact and boldly put herself in situations that made her slightly uncomfortable. I was the Chloe who believed in true love and ran off, hand-in-hand with strange boys, to raid the kitchen and steal champagne. As to the question Jimmy asked me as he hovered above me, I still can’t say if it’s art. But I will say it’s spectacle and adventure, and just maybe you might leave a little bolder, a little more enchanted than when you arrived.
Art and Dreams
“Is this art?” asked the man doing a handstand over my head as I lay back, staring up at him. I didn’t know. “I don’t know, either,” he responded before somehow bounding back to his feet and pulling me off on another adventure at the immursive spectacle/dinner theater Queen of the Night.
On the other side of my trip into the Diamond Horseshoe, I’ve decided it’s art, but more than art. It’s art+; so much more intense, more personal than anything I’ve encountered before. It blurs the lines between what is and what could be, and when you come out of those murkey woods, you feel a little different than before. This sounds melodramatic, I know, but as most of you know, I’m sort of obsessed with Sleep No More, another experiential theater piece. Yes, part of the reason is the story, I do love Shakespeare, and Macbeth is fascinating. But honestly, it’s that experience. It’s the blurring of that line between fiction and reality, between who I am and who I could be. And in my quest to experiment with that line, I found Queen of the Night.
Last night found my partner in crime, Sari, and I at the Paramount Hotel, donned in our finest cocktail attire.
The first steps into the Diamond Horseshoe seemed underwhelming…and under construction. The walls were bare, white drywall, and the coat check was constructed out of those weird boards they use for scaffolding. I’m still undecided if this is intentional or if it’s actually under construction. Why would it be intentional? Because there’s a slow descent into the night. As soon as you turn the corner, you are faced with an old, weathered marble stair case. Dusty champagne glasses are stacked in the corner of the first landing as if they’ve been uncovered from an archaeological dig. But the deeper you go, the cleaner, brighter, more lavish things are.
While waiting on the stairs, Sari was suddenly whisked away by a lanky blonde man in outlandish clothes, leaving me crushed that I was left behind. But a moment later, another man in short shorts and a black-and-white motley suit coat came up the stairs and caught my eye. We stared at each other for a moment (intense eye contact is a frequent occurrence), and he put his hand on the shoulder of the girl in front of me. ‘Denied again!’ I thought. But he looked up at me again, a wicked gleam in his eyes, extended his hand, and we were off. I was given a slip of paper and told to pick a drink (the drinks were outlandish, full of strange fruits and herbs.) After ordering me to take a drink (“Good girl,” he praised), he vanished. I stood sipping for a moment before I ran into Sari again, returned from her own adventure with a quest to deliver a note. We had a moment to chat before a young woman approached me and asked if I could help her, and I was pulled away again down the rabbit hole. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, I met and assisted the princess, snuck around the kitchens, and scored a whole bottle of Prosecco before I reunited with Sari to compare our discoveries. During all of this, the strangest part, and the most challenging part, was being myself. In Sleep No More I can hide behind a mask, I’m voiceless. I follow wordless instructions. But here, I could engage and be engaged. It was both thrilling and a little terrifying.
Soon after reuniting, we were seated, sharing a table on one of the raised platform with a very nice couple. The performance was amazing. Dancing, circus stunts, acrobatics…I’m sure I watched the first half with my mouth hanging open. Later, dinner was served: gilded cages of lobsters, whole roast pigs on spits, heaping plates of ribs. Apparently, if we wanted to try all the dishes, we had to barter. Luckily, we received the lobsters, the hot commodity, and people came to us to trade, bearing plates of rib and the most delicious pork I’ve ever tasted. My poor little grad student body didn’t know what to do with such delicacies!
After we’d eaten, the show resumed, as entertaining as ever. Dessert was served in quite an interesting way after a truly beautiful ending to the performance. The whole evening was magical and sensual and transporting.