A few weeks back I attended The Speakeasy, a play and a bar and an interactive experience in San Francisco. I recommend it.
To get to the play, you meet a man in a public space near Civic Center, who gives you a secret map to the location. The location is a fake clock shop (this isn't spoiling things as that's on the website), through which you enter the theater.
Inside there are several rooms, decorated with patterned red wallpaper and everything vintage, sort of like Bourbon & Branch. You're led to your seat, which is in one of several rooms. There is a bar in one room and cocktail servers, so you can start drinking right away - and all throughout the night. No need to wait until intermission.
The drinks include vintage and modern classics like the Negroni, Jungle Bird, and Black Manhattan, and then a few others I haven't heard of like the End Times (bourbon, islay scotch, bitters) Cleopatra (cocchi americano, dry vermouth, strega, orange bitters), and Italian Cowboy (gin, campari, fernet branca). They did a good job of picking bitter-forward drinks to match SF's palate, that's for sure.
The drinks are all pre-batched and stirred so that they don't have the noise of the cocktail shaker competing with the play in the same room - some of the actors might be sitting at the barstool next to you.
The play itself is immersive and sometimes interactive - the characters are all around you (and it gets really interesting when the audience dresses in period outfits as then it's harder to tell who is who) talking to each other across the room.
I began in the bar room, which has a small stage. The other large room is the cabaret with a larger stage, where there are main attractions and showgirls as well as smaller acts like a ventriloquist on occasion. There is a casino for gambling with fake money, and a dressing room with a one-way mirror looking in.
In all of these areas the play takes place. Some storylines move about from room to room, while others take place in specific areas. They're all happening at the same time so you can choose whether to hang out in one place or move around and follow characters. Everything is timed really well, so that there is always something going on but sometimes the room slows down for particularly intense moments to play out without the crowd moving around.
You don't interact with the characters unless they pull you in to something, but that's fun when it happens. At one point I was invited into a special corner table and treated like a famous actor of the time, thanked from the stage and given champagne to drink. (Note: that is appropriate treatment for me anytime.)
There is an obvious parallel between The Speakeasy and Sleep No More in New York, in the immersive theatrical experience, but this is less artsy with more dialogue, and with lots of drinks. That's the truly smart part that the producers of Speakeasy did- you pay for tickets and then you keep paying for cocktails (and I had a lot of cocktails). They even open up the bar for a few hours after the play is over so you can keep buying drinks.
Tickets are on sale through the end of June so best to book now- most of May is sold out already.
The Speakeasy website is here.
Images courtesy of The Speakeasy.