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Sleep no more

May 1, 2012
Logo design by Christine Hepner

“Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more!”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 2.2

Needless to say, we’re not sleeping the way we used to, not that we expected to. We do count ourselves very lucky, because our little guy has been a good sleeper almost from the get-go. He has his cranky moments but generally if he’s crying, he “telegraphs” why. Sucking on his little fists, he’s hungry. Rubbing his little eyes, he’s tired. As my pediatrician said, he better not take up poker, because he has dead give-aways. We have had so much help from my mother because last summer, we sublet our apartment and moved to Pennsylvania and stayed with her. D took as much vacation time as he could, about 4 weeks, and then the rest of time he commuted to Newark, NJ. On paper, it’s not a horrible commute, maybe 70 miles, but with traffic during rush hour it can take closer to three hours, especially on a Friday night when everyone leaves NYC for the mountains. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, he’s our hero!

Anyway, it seemed appropriate that one of our first major evening outings after returning to NY was going to see Sleep No More. If you are anywhere in the NYC vicinity, I highly recommend this fascinating production. It’s a reimagining of Macbeth mixed with elements of Hitchcock movies, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and a haunted house. The whole production is staged in a huge old warehouse in Chelsea. You are lead into a 1930s jazz club and given white masks. Then, you are taken in small groups up in an elevator and pushed out on one of 6 floors. They try to break groups up, so that you are left alone to explore the hundreds of rooms beautifully decorated as a hospital ward, an old candy store, a speak-easy, a ballroom, a nursery, a castle rampart, woods, and lots of various hotel rooms. You’re allowed to touch and explore the sets, look through desk drawers, open books, generally wander and look for “clues.” The music is loud and creepy and adds to the atmosphere of general darkness and mystery. And then suddenly, you might see a group of people following/chasing an unmasked person. If you follow along, you will witness scenes as the characters interact, again in scenarios loosely based on Macbeth or Hitchcock. These scenes are entirely without dialog and done through action and dance. For example, D found a room full of bathtubs and decided to hang out there. His reward was to witness Lady Macbeth come in and take a bath. I stumbled upon a scene where a young pregnant woman (the second Mrs. deWinter?) was being coerced by Mrs. Danvers and an evil bellhop into drinking a glass of (poisoned?) milk à la Rebecca and Suspicion? My friend Suzy had her mask lifted and was kissed by one of the characters. The characters can interact with the audience, but the audience is not allowed to talk, unmask, or interact with each other.

We went with friends, which is so much fun because everyone has a different experience and witnesses different scenes, so afterward you can all compare notes. It all added up to a great evening and it was so totally engrossing that I managed not to worry about the baby too much. He was home with my mother and a babysitter, which I like to call the belt-and-suspenders method of childcare. But there is a lot of “dead baby” imagery throughout the production that I found very disturbing. Plus, the whole evening is physically exhausting. You aren’t sitting and watching a show. You are walking and sometimes running up and down 6 stories for 2 or 3 hours.

I eventually found the perfect room for a new parent. There is a huge room with a single bathtub elevated in the center. When I entered, it was filled with what looked like bloody water (the aftermath of the out, out damn spot scene?). In the corner of the room was an enormous, luxurious bed. It looked so inviting, so warm, so comfortable. And then, I came up with this sleep-deprived thought: What if I took off my mask and just crawled into that bed to take a nap? I was dressed in black, as were many of the characters in the production. The room was dark and there were no crying babies anywhere! What if?

Then I thought about the Woody Allen short story about the man who was transported from modern-day New York City into the book Madame Bovary. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if after the play that night, groups of Shakespeare scholars and English Lit majors sat around discussing the significance of the fat, middle-aged woman in Lady Macbeth’s bed? And I could catch a much-needed nap to boot! It seemed like a win-win to me. If only I had the nerve. Instead, I sat on a steamer trunk near the bed for about 15 minutes, resting. Eventually two characters came in (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) and performed a pas de deux, throwing themselves on the bed at one point. So, it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

But D and I are talking about going back to see it again, and this time, depending on how tired I am, I just might sleep. It wouldn’t be the first time someone slept through Shakespeare, right?

Next time: Nanny or Grandma?

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