Review: Delusion: Masque of Mortality

Triple hyphenate Producer-Writer-Director Jon Braver spoke to me about his latest interactive theater project, Delusion: Masque of Mortality.  “When I began to write this, I knew I wanted to do something with Plague Doctors, but I didn’t have the story yet. Then I found this space and it was perfect,” he smiled.  Standing in the courtyard looking up at the church tower, it’s easy to see why the atmosphere inspired him. He told me that when working there he was often interrupted by pigeons flapping and flying around in the building, “It’s a creepy place even in the daytime.”

Jon Braver. Photo by Eden Folwell

Jon Braver. Photo by Eden Folwell

Taking place in an old church in Silverlake, the latest offering from HAUNTED PLAY THEATRE COMPANY is nothing like a typical Halloween maze or a typical play. This is live theater that takes you by the hand and leads you through a 360 degree experience where the whole building acts as stage and everyone must participate. Delusion: Masque of Mortality requires full audience involvement throughout the evening… no hiding behind your friends!

I checked in at a small dimly lit desk and was given a wristband marked with my departure group “WAR”. I followed a flight of steps down to a courtyard bar to wait for my group to be called.  The bar this year is also referenced in the play.  People are “taking refuge” here, drinking and laughing while rumors spread about strange hooded Doctors in the building. My wait was a little less than an hour, but the time passed quickly as I enjoyed some close-up card tricks with magician Joel Ward.

After the show, Braver asked me if I had found the password in the courtyard.  I was confused.  “There are easter eggs all around you, if you know where to look”… he gestured around, “we don’t advertise them.  It’s just something fun for people to look for while they wait”. I won’t give it away, but you might find something if you look UP and look DOWN.

When the word on my wristband was called, I joined a small group and was ushered through a doorway into a claustrophobic room filled with toys and dusty furniture. The door closed behind me as a voiceover began the story.

“1930. Something feels wrong… but this must be the place.  There’s nowhere left to go.”

“Brooding whispers of an enlightened group of people called The Doctors spread as quickly as the virus. These mysterious figures promise a remedy to not only the plague, but to a greater life, free of the oppression of God and human limitations. But we just can’t stop the brooding thoughts of doubt and suspicion.”

“We have little choice.  They must let us in.”

A woman joined us and gave one of our group a satchel.  We were asked to guard it and follow her into the building. Inside, we were warned that Plague Doctors have taken over this place and are dangerously close. If they find us they will surely kill us because our blood is “pure” and we have not been infected. We must stay quiet to stay safe and follow all instructions in order to save ourselves, defeat The Doctors, and make it out alive.

Warning. Photo by Eden Folwell

Warning. Photo by Eden Folwell

Along the way, we are confronted with hair-raising situations requiring quick thinking. We have to work together to complete tasks… or in several instances members of our group disappear for a time to work alone or in pairs. This means that ingeniously parallel storylines are happening in different rooms at the same time.

Near the beginning, I was separated from the group and locked in a cage. I was genuinely scared as I had to confront my jailor and work with a fellow prisoner to make it back to the group! The smart technique of splitting up couples and friends makes the experience thrilling as I was forced to rely on myself to complete my part of the story.  As I rejoined the group, we raced together through the building…  often having to stop and turn on a dime.  Several times while running down a narrow passageway, we had to quickly dart into a small room or turn and run back the way we had come to avoid detection by The Doctors.

The cast for my group was brilliantly acted by Aaron Lyons as Charles, whose daring and sympathetic performance had us running up and down stairs at breakneck speeds. Dasha Kittredge was also wonderfully engaging as Elizabeth (some might recognize her from Delusion: Blood Rite, last season’s hit).

Delusion: Masque of Mortality is an electrifying night out. Braver’s mind-blowing ability to blend jump scares with truly engaging storytelling make this play even better than last season’s adventure. The magnificent setting and sensational performances left me breathless and riveted through the final sprint.

Last year’s event went through multiple extensions, but don’t count on that happening again.
Performances are $60 and will likely sell out. Get your tickets while you can!

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