Friday, November 23, 2012

"Then She Fell" (Third Rail Projects)-- Sharing Dreams In A House Big As Memory

Then She Fell literally brings the audience into its spell, involving us not merely as spectators but as participants in a fever-dream meditation on Lewis Carroll, his relationship with Alice, and the nature of Alice herself.   Created and produced by NYC-based troupe Third Rail Projects, Then She Fell entrances, mystifies, surprises, and delights with its immersive, multimedia approach.  Lobster & Canary went through the looking glass a week ago, and recommends the experience.

As Third Rail puts it on a poem they handed out at the end of the two-hour journey (presumably written by a member of the company, as I could not find it otherwise cited anywhere):  "I dreamt that we were dreaming a dream together you and I, and we were trapped in a house, big as memory.  Countless doors."

That house, with its many doors (only to be opened upon instruction or command!), was the artfully laid out basement of the former Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn-- the perfect setting for an exploration of Wonderland.  Third Rail takes great pains in its settings, from the flocked floral-pattern wallpaper to the period-perfect handwriting on the patients' records.  For two hours, we were not only in Victorian England, we were actually inside Carroll's world; time outside stopped, inside prismatically fragmented.  Transported utterly by the White Rabbit's timepiece.

While inviting comparison to Punchdrunk's Sleep No More (reviewed by Lobster & Canary on May 1st, 2011-- click here), Then She Fell forges its own innovative way.  Most fundamentally, Then She Fell only brings in 15 audience members per show, and then weaves those members into the show--or, rather, shows, since there are multiple "plot-lines," and no two audience members experience quite the same thing.  We were constantly being split up and re-assembled in the warren of rooms, corridors and other hard-to-define spaces.

Trading nonsensical quips and riddles with the Mad Hatter...ruminating over bits of Carroll's verse, retrieved from a locked box while sitting alone in a tiny room festooned with roses hung upside down...drinking the strangest elixir, offered by one of the two Alices...who then danced with Carroll, after watching herself (the other Alice) in a non-existent mirror...drinking a toast and playing a game with Carroll himself...listening at very close hand to the mournful questions of the Red Queen, spent after her raging, alone at her dressing table...drinking tea at a certain famous party, that got faster and more furious as the gathered actors and guests passed the tea cups...fragments, illusions, hybrid creatures in huge framed pictures, the chilling organization of the hospital trays with their stoppered bottles and large needles, a gramophone that played "The Walrus and the Carpenter" while we surveyed the curious contents of solanders, a hundred aged photographs of Alice, keys, keys and locks...

We've been fans of Third Rail since seeing their Drifting Encyclopedia at the World Financial Center (Battery Park, NYC) in 2010, with its "assemblage of American oddities, scientific & historical ephemera, questionable accounts and implausible representations thereof," and most especially since wandering through their Steampunk Haunted House at the Abrons Art Center (Lower East Side, NYC) in 2011.  We hope that, with Then She Fell, Third Rail gains an even wider audience.  If you are in NYC, go see Then She Fell...and if you are not, call and ask Third Rail to come to wherever you are.

For more on Then She Fell, click here.

For more on Third Rail Projects, click here.   

Banner and photos above are copyright Third Rail Projects (used here from their website, for non-commercial purposes). Pictured are:  Rebekah Morin as the Red Queen and Tom Pearson as the White Rabbit, Alberto Denis as Lewis Carroll and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus as one of the two Alices.