No matter how many times I write about it, immersive theater continues to fascinate me. From Sleep No More and Then She Fell in New York to The Speakeasy in San Francisco, audiences seem to love this new theater trend where you aren’t restricted to seats and the action happens all around you.
Play/Date is the newest offering in the immersive theater world and is located in the Lower East side of Manhattan in a bar called Fat Baby. The show features a series of small one-act plays written by 17 different playwrights. Each play takes place somewhere within Fat Baby’s three levels, often times simultaneously. Audience members are free to roam around the bar and choose their own adventure, stopping to watch any scene that strikes their fancy.
“We want to blur the line between reality and theater,” according to Play/Date Associate Director Daryl Embry. “Many of the scenes are something you can find happening in bars throughout New York City. We’re turning them into a unique form of theater.”
Scenes all follow the same common theme of dating: First dates, break ups, cheating, hook ups and everything in between. Actors blend in with audience members in the bar setting until it’s time for their performance. Once their scene begins, the actor’s microphone goes live and you can hear their conversations via speakers located in their section of the bar. A scene can last anywhere from one to 20 minutes and can even continue on throughout the night as their character meets new people and progresses.
Considering the show takes place in an actual Manhattan bar, all audience members must be 21-and-over. You’re free to grab a drink whenever you like and mix in with the madness. Also, considering the age limit, many of the scenes deal with adult subject matter. For example, near the beginning of Play/Date, a young woman walks into the bar completely topless. Even more intriguing, she’s an exhibitionist on a first date and wanted to make a unique first impression. What happens next? You’ll have to go see the show for yourself, but let’s just say she persuades her date to come out of his shell a little.
Play/Date gets extremely clever with its integration of social media. Located throughout the bar are large screens that come to life when an actor decides to hop on their phone and text their friends, check Facebook or even see who might be nearby in a hook up app like Grindr. It’s as if you’re reading over their shoulder and can read their thoughts. Often times, if you are standing in the right spot, they are texting someone else in the bar and you can read both conversations.
Even more fascinating is how far the show goes to connect itself to social media. Once guests buy a ticket to Play/Date, they can log onto the website and click on links to learn about the characters in the show. That’s right, many of the characters in the show have their own Facebook, Twitter, Grindr and Instagram profiles so you can do your own form of cyber stalking before the show even starts and learn some of the back stories before you even arrive at the bar.
There is virtually no space in Fat Baby that is off limits to a scene. Even bartenders and cocktail waitresses (who are genuine bartenders that serve patrons) have their own scenes throughout the night, again blurring the line between reality and theater.
One final tip: Feel free to follow a character anywhere throughout the bar if their story interests you. If they say they are going to the bathroom? Follow them. Scenes take place literally everywhere and I am even told that one of the bathroom stalls gets a little hot and steamy during one point of the show.
Immersive theater continues to be one of the most fascinating forms of themed entertainment out there today. If you’ve never seen one of these shows before, I highly recommend Play/Date. It’s highly entertaining, completely unique and totally relatable. For more information or to book tickets, visit PlayDateShow.com.