The Speakeasy, an immersive theater piece set in the 1920s that ran for 425 performances pre-pandemic in a subterranean space in North Beach called The Palace Theater, is reopening tonight. And as it does, some former performers in the show are voicing concerns about rampant problems that occurred during the initial run.

The Chronicle's theater critic Lily Janiak details those allegations this week, having spoken to a number of people involved with the show over several years. The investigative piece includes descriptions by former cast members of women being grabbed by male audience members, inadequate changing spaces for cast and waitstaff, and even one allegation of a cast member having their drink roofied during a performance.

The ambitious show dates back a full decade, and had an initial, brief run in 2014 in somewhat makeshift space in the Tenderloin. The immersive experience takes audience members back to Prohibition Era San Francisco, and included conceits like cloaked cast members you had to rendezvous with in an alley a couple blocks from the theater just to gain entry, and who would give you instructions to keep your phones off and to show a certain token in order to buy drinks at the bar.

The show was the most ambitious piece to date by the Boxcar Theater group, and was well enough received that they attracted investors, and in 2016 moved to the Palace Theater space, fully built out beneath China Live on Broadway in North Beach.

They served real alcohol, and as Chronicle beverage critic Esther Mobley wrote in a 2016 review, "Booze and the act of drinking it are at the absolute core of the show — both a theme in its narrative and an agent for audience immersion."

In my experience, the scripted and improvised aspects of the "show" itself seemed beside the point. This was more of a booze-theater experience where actors enacted little vignettes around you, most of it disconnected and non-linear, and you were free to move between several rooms including a bar, a cabaret, and a casino. The best part, typically, was the odd vaudeville-esque variety show going on in the cabaret.

In that environment, where the actors were even apparently encouraged to drink, one can see where there's plenty of room for things to go wrong.

Founding creator and producer Nick Olivero, who has reportedly stepped back from daily management of the remounted production, sent an email to cast members obtained by the Chronicle — in anticipation of their story — saying, "Some of the people who worked on the show during its previous iteration expressed the opinion, in social media and elsewhere, that leadership didn’t always act consistently or equitably. Only a handful of the hundreds and hundreds of individuals whom we employed made such complaints.”

The complaints are wide-ranging, and include pay disputes, and allegations of improvised dialogue that was offensive to people of color — which was meant to imitate the white supremacist attitudes of the time period. Some of that, as well as one particular racist song from the period that had been included in earlier version of the show, are no longer included because producers deemed them too triggering, the Chronicle reports.

One of the performers who lodged complaints, trans and nonbinary actor Charlie Gray, tells the Chronicle that while they were grabbed at inappropriately by audience members and there was never a decent protocol for bouncers to handle this, "Performing the show was pretty magical."

David Oates, a spokesperson for The Speakeasy, said in a statement that new safety protocols are in place for the remounted production, with more security cameras and an upgraded "alert system" for performers to notify staff of a problem.

The Speakeasy reopens tonight at the Palace Theater. Tickets are available here, including packages that include open bar, and VIP options.

Previously: Interactive Theater Piece 'The Speakeasy' Returns to North Beach In April