No, I did not actually go to Paris last Friday night, but through the immersive theatre experience of The Tenant, I spent a couple of hours in one of its more paranoia-inducing apartment buildings. The interactive adapation of the Roland Topor novel that was later made into a film by Roman Polanski was staged by the Woodshed Collective in the West-Park Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side. Much like Sleep No More, which I’ve obsessed a little over, you the audience member are free to wander through the building, following characters or not. Except there are no masks, and there is lots of dialogue, and the atmosphere is a little more on the derelict side. Luckily, both do have bars that you can visit during the performance.
After watching an introductory video, we wandered off and soon encountered the eccentric inhabitants of the apartment building. The story was that the new tenant, Trelkovsky, moved into an apartment previously inhabited by a woman who jumped to her death. He slowly loses his mind and meets the same end, weirdly being transformed into her. The actor who played Trelkovsky was great, and most of the cast was pretty convincing. It was a little hard to tell who the actors were without the divide of white masks, even if the time period was Paris in the 1960s. This is NYC in 2011, so period clothing is all around. Highlights included observing a couple alternately sing songs into a microphone dragged out from their closet while rain dripped on the window outside. Other moments were a little less striking, but it was all incredibly entertaining. The unwanted surprise party Telkovsky got that was interrupted by one of the singers was great, as was the tall, creepy owner of the building and his curious side story involving a mummy. I especially loved the low-tech surprise moment of when Trelkovsky suddenly realizes all the other tenants are in it against him, and all the characters cleverly spin into the room. Almost every room had a TV, that often played scenes happening in other rooms. Other TVs nearby echoed the scenes you were currently watching, making the paranoia mount as Trelkovsky starts to lose his mind.
The Tenant unfortunately just ended its run, or else I would definitely go again. (Did I mention tickets were free? Incredible!) I love this trend of interactive theatre and worry I’m getting a little spoiled. How can I possibly just sit in the audience when I go to Rent this month?