Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Third Rail Projects' Then She Fell at The Kingsland Ward @ St. Johns by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Third Rail Projects' Then She Fell at The Kingsland Ward @ St. Johns was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Then She Fell
Directed, Designed, Written & Choreographed
by Zach Morris, Tom Pearson & Jennine Willett
Original Music & Sound Design by Sean Hagerty
The Kingsland Ward @ St. Johns
195 Maujer Street
Brooklyn, New York 11211
Reviewed 12/1/15  

Then She Fell is an immersive, interactive, multi-sensory theater experience offering 15 people a journey down the rabbit hole and multiple voyeuristic glimpses through the looking glass into the life, mind and works of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass under the pen name Lewis Carroll. For two hours, during which time we are often separated from the other guests at The Kingsland Ward, we must follow two rules: Do Not Open Any Closed Doors and Do Not Speak Unless Spoken To. Otherwise, we are encouraged to explore each room filled with paraphernalia, photographs, and letters, many of which comment on Dodgson's obsession with eleven-year-old Alice Liddell for whom he wrote many poems and stories. Was Dodgson's ceaseless pursuit of juvenile female company innocent or did it involve a sexual component, whether or not he ever acted on those urges? It is hard to judge his 19th-century actions from a 21st-century perspective. In the Victorian Era, young naked girls represented innocence and their images even appeared on Christmas cards. But even if it is true that Charles Dodgson was sexually and romantically interested in Alice Liddell, my research indicates that after 1823 in England, a girl could agree to marry without her parent's consent at age 12; and the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, the relevant statute in place when Dodgson "courted" Alice Liddell, effectively set the age of consent to engage in sexual intercourse at ten, saying it was "no offence to have sexual intercourse with a girl under 12 (but at least 10) who "freely consented, however ignorant." Carnal knowledge with girls under 10 remained a felony.

Arriving at The Kingsland Ward, we are led to what appears to be an intake room. We are offered an elixir (red wine with spices). Eventually, the various staff members direct each guest into a different room where the experiences begin. Potions mixed from bottles hid in different books, a tea party, a fitting with the Mad Hatter, an audience with the Red Queen, and a bedtime story read to me while another gentleman and I reclined side-by-side on a single bed with our eyes closed. There was also an amazing card trick and other tasks requiring my participation such as taking dictation, painting a white rose with red paint, and brushing the hair of one of the two Alices, who told me her mother "had arranged for me to meet a Prince." While there were two handsome young men attending to the two Alices and the Red Queen through foreplay and sexual intercourse displayed as stylized dance moves, I never got that promised introduction. In fact, all that happened came across more like a dreamlike experience than something comprehensible. We also spent a lot of time looking at people in other rooms (and even in a confessional booth) through two-way mirrors. You even see other guests participating in activities you are not engaging in, which confirms that each person only experiences about 70% of the different adventures offered. Background music plays throughout the presentation as you wait for another "nice young man (or woman) in a clean white coat to come and take you away (ha ha)."

More spiced elixirs and red grapes are offered in very small service sizes. In the end, a now-sane Red Queen gave me philosophical advice regarding how "life is fragile" and that, at any moment, I might find myself "alone or destitute." How to avoid that fate was not entirely clear. Then She Fell is certainly an experience worth having, but at $135.00 for the 7:30 p.m. show and $125.00 for the 10:30 p.m. show, it is not inexpensive. I think the alcohol and fruit offerings could be upsized. I also would have liked to have had more physical contact and interaction with the staff of The Kingsland Ward. Perhaps a consent form might be in order where the attendees agree in advance to be touched. That way, the staff could make the "patients" feel less like observers and more like someone actively participating in the fantasy. This could be easily accomplished through minimal physical contacts such as a touch of the hand, a massage of the shoulder, or even a little dance or hug with the promised Prince. If that change is ever instituted, you might want to bring Molly along.

It is important to keep in mind the main goal of Third Rail Projects is to create "immersive and experimental dance-theater." Consequently, much of the show features dancing, which is not something you might expect to see going in. Then She Fell even won a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award in 2013. The show currently runs through March 2016. Many dates are already sold out since only 30 people can be accommodated per evening. Then She Fell is one of those once in a lifetime experiences you will not want to miss! I suggest you make your reservations now either by calling 718-374-5196 or by visiting 

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