This Friday, a new experience in "immersive" theater is debuting at an undisclosed location in the Tenderloin where you'll need a password to enter (kind of like at Bourbon & Branch, the 8-year-old speakeasy-themed cocktail spot in the 'hood). It's a play about a 1920s speakeasy called The Speakeasy, and like the long-running off-Broadway experiment Sleep No More, its "scenes" are performed constantly and simultaneously in multiple rooms that the audience can move between freely. As director Nick Olivero tells the SF Business Times, it's like "a museum of people," and also like a "living video game" in which audience members can take on new identities of their own as they meet the members of the cast.
The Speakeasy is a production of The Boxcar Theater, which typically operates out of a small space at 505 Natoma Street, but for this play they're using a space somewhere in the Tenderloin with a clock shop as its fake front, and a full bar, cabaret, and casino hidden inside, with multiple rooms and a cast of 35 assorted bartenders, card dealers, bootleggers, floozies, waitresses, and chorus girls, all in character as if it's 1923. We have a feeling the show might end in a raid by police (the website suggests that the fictional speakeasy was raided in 1923), but we can't say for sure.
This is a pretty big production for Boxcar standards, with a $200,000 budget and what was clearly a significant construction investment. (See photos here.) Olivero found some interested investors among the city's new techie residents, who he says "get it" more than some of his theater friends.
And regardless of how well they pull off the actual play part (it seems like each character has a backstory, and the audience will get involved in some of their interactions), it promises to be a pretty fun time. Tickets are $60 and you can reserve a table in the cabaret for $10 extra, guaranteeing you a place to sit down and watch the chorus girls. Drinks can be purchased with credit cards, and then after the performance each night the bar and casino stay open. You can hang out and gamble/drink for an additional $10 (which gets you $2000 in casino chips).
The show runs Thursday to Saturday every week starting this weekend, and it's scheduled to run through March 15. Get tickets here.