Boxcar Theatre's hit immersive theater experience from 2014, The Speakeasy (see SFist's review here) is being revived this August in a new space in North Beach/Chinatown and like its first incarnation, the exact address will likely remain under wraps, with theater-goers being given a rendezvous point where they receive special instructions from cloaked actors a few blocks away. As Broadway World reports, previews are set to begin August 12, with a ribbon cutting ceremony happening on August 8, and the plan is to keep the play running for the long term and banking that it will be a hit like it was in the Tenderloin two years ago in space that it clearly couldn't stay in.
The piece is now four years in the making, and is Boxcar's most ambitious production to date, clocking in at a budget of $3 million and boasting some investors from the tech world hooray for patrons of the arts! And it sounds like version 2.0 is going to get an infusion of fresh energy from two highly experienced performers who are veterans of immersive theater: Ron Campbell and Mark Nassar, neither of whom were in the first production.
Campbell spent five years with Cirque du Soleil's Kooza, appeared as Cecil B. DeGrille in Teatro Zinzanni, and won raves as Don Quixote at Marin Shakespeare Company, and he'll be creating the role of the cabaret emcee in The Speakeasy. Nassar is the co-creator of Tony n' Tina's Wedding, the longest running Off-Broadway show ever and a similar immersive experience, and he wrote and directed another immersive piece in Chicago, Johnny Boy, which has been running there since 2012. He'll be playing the saloon keeper, Sal.
Those who went in 2014 will know the basic structure: Audience members are ushered into one of two spaces at the beginning of the show a speakeasy saloon or a cabaret-style theater where the action begins. The 35 actors in the piece, which is set in 1923, will be peppered among the audience in both, and you're encouraged to interact though not while they're enacting various scenarios assigned to their character. And after a first set of scenes/musical numbers is complete, you're free to move and see what's happening elsewhere, which will get repeated there's a chorus girl abused by a mobster boyfriend, WWI vets having flashbacks, a degenerate gambler bringing his child to the craps table, couples old and young working out their issues. Hopefully, too, the stories of each character will be tightened, because while the original version had plenty of moments for amusement and pathos, things could feel pretty scattered it is an ensemble piece without any real plot, after all.
The fun part is, audience members can take a break from watching the actors over in a casino room ($5 buys you, adjusted for inflation, $137 in chips), and you're free to order drinks from cocktail servers all evening long. Eater has word of a few of the drinks in the making which are "contemporary interpretations of Prohibition-era cocktails" from bar manager Geoffrey Dolan.
Chances are strong that this could become SF's own Tony n' Tina's Wedding, and could be with us for a good long while.
Tickets for The Speakeasy (2.0) go on sale here June 13. Following two months of previews, the regular run is set to begin in October, with shows nightly Thursday to Sunday.