There are minor spoilers for The Door, Chapter 3 in The Speakeasy Society’s The Kansas Collection below, but we’ve done our best to avoid plot points and keep key characters ambiguous.
“What is the difference between inevitable consequences and destiny?”
Lyman wipes his hands on his pajama pants. He’s nervous—rousted from bed unexpectedly. But, despite wearing a bathrobe, his mustache is still expertly curled. Soft music plays behind a small bar; Kansas license plates hang on the wall behind him. The warm light is welcoming, but the air is viscous with tension. He rubs his hands on his knees once again and looks at me, his eyes tired but stern. “Just know, whatever happens, some choices are harder to make than others.”
Chapter 3 of The Kansas Collection: The Door offered an alternate tone compared to the previous two pieces. Focused on themes of desperation, cowardice, and betrayal, The Door proves that The Speakeasy Society can tackle dark material just as masterfully as the light. This chapter was an emotionally difficult piece to sit and watch, helpless to change the outcome.
The set was a stark difference from their previous eclectic designs. We were brought into the home of someone who was broken. We were not in Oz; rather, we were back in the real world—in Kansas. It was a bland gray space with sporadic paranoid notes reminding the inhabitant to stay in the house, never to leave. This space complemented the bleak and despondent narrative and served as a perfect backdrop to the dark story within.
As with the previous chapters, The Door relied heavily on their extremely strong and talented cast. The Wizard demonstrated an incredible range: forcing me to feel heartbreak, sadness, and hatred all in a single show. His performance was devastatingly powerful, and accordingly, he has become a fan favorite. A new character is also introduced in The Door—a beaten down and paranoid shell of a girl. Her performance matches The Wizard’s strong emotional delivery, activating my desire to protect her. If I could have interfered with the scene and made a difference, I would have, but it wasn’t my choice. And during the chaos of the ending, my loyalty was tested. Head or heart? Sky or ground? Where is home? If the final choice was up to me, I dread what I would have chosen.
This chapter did contain the element of choice, although it was more nuanced compared to previous chapters. This show held more a traditional proscenium compared to the previous two chapters. Most of the performance had participants seated on a couch watching events unfold. Participants could activate alternate scenes by using key phrases that would have revealed their faction loyalties. Because each group was composed of diverse members of multiple factions, many participants refused to reveal their loyalties to their teammates. It was unclear if we were safe to do so in the face of other factions, and some participants lamented their choice afterwards—realizing that they missed out on a unique interaction. Further, player interactivity took a backseat to the powerful actor performances in this show. By not giving participants the option to make a choice, The Door highlighted how powerless we currently are, and how some consequences are inevitable.
Finally, it is important to note that while Chapter 3 is a ticketed event, a large portion of the narrative is unfolding through digital communications. Participants are uncovering secrets, gaining trust in their factions, and solving involved puzzles in the interim between shows. These moments are bringing together a community that is eager to get lost in the Oz mythos. By solving the puzzles and watching additional content, the narrative is fleshed out and players are awarded a deeper look into the motivations of characters. For example, two recent videos detail the same moment in time from two drastically different viewpoints. The first left me shaken, with a hatred for a character who ruthlessly killed without care; the second revealed an alternate truth that made me sympathize with the killer who may have had justified actions. With two truths that are both true to the one that experienced it—who do you believe? It’s moments like these that make me excited for the morally ambiguous choices of the future.
The Speakeasy Society has incredible talent; their actors are some of the best I have ever seen, the writing has taken a classic tale and turned it into something different and interesting, and their set design has been simple, yet impactful. Chapter Three was emotionally charged, leaving the audience raw in its final scene; which was all accomplished by having characters that felt real. Their narrative, despite being a work of fantasy, is grounded in reality, tackling morally ambiguous questions and choices–all with powerful consequences. It’s these questions of truth, life, and accountability that have spawned some of the most thought-provoking conversations I’ve heard in the immersive community. As The Door comes to a close, I look forward to the future, as bleak and as dark as it may seem.
For more information, follow The Speakeasy Society’s website and facebook. For those who missed Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, please check them out at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The Door is being remounted in June, 2017, and tickets are on sale now!
Thank you to Chelsea Morgan for her helpful comments and direction on this review of The Door.