Nothing Is, but What Is Not

The cast changes; the choreography stays the same; what holds infinite interest is being there.

McKittrick Hotel Jared Nangle

  • Sleep No More is on at the McKittrick Hotel through May 27.

A memorable episode of HBO’s Girls (2012– 2017) takes place during an immersive theater performance. Hannah (Lena Dunham) and co. are there to support Adam (Adam Driver), who has a part, but the self-directed roaming through rooms across an apartment complex ends up facilitating whisper-shout side conversations and dramatic revelations about the friends’ own lives, not the play. “This play is super unrealistic,” one of them decides, before turning to Hannah to ask, “Do you think I deserve all of the things that are happening to me?”

When the episode aired in 2016, the tagline “immersive theater” was having a moment, if not already approaching the end of its hype, making Dunham’s usage a perfect parody. That same season, the New York Times recommended eight productions that offered groups of strangers opportunities to bathe an actor, strategize against a fake zombie invasion, and answer the prompt “I am…” into a microphone. Active participation was taken to far limits, becoming a cor…

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