a tl;dr - If I was offered a job that would allow me to live and enjoy life in NYC, I would go in a heartbeat.
Also, if you are in NYC, go see Sleep No More.
Spent most of Friday and Sunday wandering around areas I have either never been to or attractions I have not seen. Friday was USS Intrepid, Lower Manhattan, 9/11 Memorial, then wandered around Flatiron and met my cousin for drinks. Then late late evening was Top of the Rock and more drinks at Marquee with a friend. Sunday I wandered around Chelsea and West Village, then made my way down to Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy and then the LES.
One World Trade Center
Chandelier inside 30 Rock
View from Top Of The Rock
Saturday was first around Washington Square, Lower Manhattan, Nolita and then lunch with another friend near St. Marks. Afternoon was Newsies, a musical based on a movie that only 90's kids will know. Then I wandered down to the West Village for drinks with my cousin and a friend of hers and a friend of mine, then dinner with more of my cousin's friends at En.
Newsies (Press Photo, NYTimes.com)
By now you can see a recurring theme of alcohol. The drinking scene in NYC is amazing, and a alcoholic insomniac like me obviously felt at home.
Especially since bars in LA close at 1 am.... wtf....
The highlight of my trip.... Sleep No More. If you are in NY before it closes for good, you HAVE to go. I nearly bought a ticket for a second showing, and I am seriously contemplating going back to NY, just to see the show again.
It is really hard to describe the entire experience, other than to say that... the word surreal is often misused by people who confuse it with "absurd"... this experience was surreal in that so much of it was confusing and parts of it... dragged me away from my grasp on reality. I've been told that the way I experienced SNM was akin to a really bad acid trip.
SNM is staged at The McKittrick Hotel, an abandoned 1930's hotel in Chelsea. My cousin and I arrived there around 11:30, and were ushered in through a pitch dark winding corridor lit only by dim floor lights at the corners. We made our way to a speakeasy-esque bar with jazz and vested waitstaff offering cocktails of champagne or shotglasses of absinthe. Of course, I took the absinthe.
The bar was supposed to be relaxing... but the waitstaff had this really creepy tone of voice that really set the mood well. Eventually, we were let lose onto on of the several floors being used to stage the performance, but not before being told to don white Venetian Carnival style masks, to remain silent throughout the performance, and that "fortune favors the bold"... in other words, strike out on your own.
The entire performance was such a sensory attack that many of the things I witnessed, I don't quite remember well enough to tell accurately. The actors in the show are for the most part silent, save for occassional semi-guttural utterances that both shock you and force you to strain to try to glean whatever information you can get. Most of the story is told through interpretive and explicit dance. It is supposedly loosely based on Macbeth and Rebecca, although it varies enough from either to really allow you to make your own experience.
On each floor there are several rooms, which allow you to either follow one character and his or her storyline, or to stay in one room to watch several storylines pass through, or to explore the set on your own. The set is so well done that it becomes a character itself. It was encouraged to open up drawers, read books, and basically explore the set.
In fact, the audience often times becomes part of the performance. It isn't so much the fourth wall being broken but rather the audience being absorbed through the fourth wall, whether you are willing to or not.
Sleep No More (Press photo, Vanity Fair)
Memorable scenes... There is a room with a maze of tree branches, and with the fog, blue-tinted lighting, and the audience members running through the maze, it almost looks like the Great Birnam Wood marching. There was a very grotesque orgy scene that really freaked out a lot of people. At one point a nude Lady Macbeth is in a bathtub, frantically trying to rinse blood off her hands. A pregnant Lady MacDuff can be found contorting as if possessed. And this just scratches the surface of what I witnessed...
The moment where I nearly lost all grasp on reality was when I attempted to explore one of the top floors by myself. I was exploring a room when a sexy nurse pulls me out by my hand and leads me to a psychatrist's office. She gestures for me to sit down next to her on a couch and takes off my mask. She then gently pushes me down to lie down, and starts to pull a blanket over me. The blanket is initially pulled over my face; given the music in the background and the utter seclusion, I start to lose it.
Thankfully, she pulls the blanket back and folds it over, then leans in to kiss me on the cheek and whisper, "the dead will play tonight". She then sits in my lap and starts to disrobe... however, it isn't as sexy as it would seem because given everything else that has happened, I really lose it. At that point I was convinced that I was actually in a different world. Then it gets worse.
Sleep No More, Nurse Shaw (Press Photo, NYMag)
Before she finishes disrobing, the music picks up a frenetic pace and the nurse starts to contort and cough wildly, eventually coughing up a rusty nail. She then looks at me with the most fearful expression I have ever seen, and then forcefully pushes me out the door, but not before whispering to me... "Don't tell anyone," and gesturing to writing on the wall that vaguely reads like the Macbeth prophecy.
Needless to say, for about five minutes I wandered that floor, completely shaken and disoriented. I eventually recover and experience the rest of the performance, including a finale that was absolutely bloodcurdling. And just as the performance was ending, who else but the nurse shows up again, slipping her arm through mine and leaning her head on my shoulder. Once the finale is over, she quickly pulls me away and up to the bar from before the performance, then pulls my mask away, kisses me on the cheek again, and gives a smile that is both still creepy and oddly reassuring, all before quickly vanishing behind a curtain.
That evening (more like early morning), I had to wander around Manhattan, just to sense things. There was no way I was going to be exposed to that much sensory stimulation and then just go back to a sterile hotel room. Even the day after and now, things seem... bland. Every part of my being just wants to go back into that world, and I recognize just how dangerous that is.
So, for now, I pretty much just have to leave it as... well done, Sleep No More.