“To learn what we fear is to learn who we are. Horror defies our boundaries and illuminates our souls.” – Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House room
In 2017, for a few too-short evenings, E3W Productions invited us into their home and told us a ghost story. In Another Room was the kind of breakout production that signifies a change in expectations for anything that follows it; the bar wasn’t just raised for immersive narrative and design, it was launched into orbit. Now, following the additional success of their sophomore production, Bitter at the End, E3W has come home for a second chapter of In Another Room. Yes, it’s home, but now home is a new house, with new ghosts, and new horrors to uncover.
In Another Room, in its second iteration, continues to tug at the curtains of reality, blending horror and whimsy together in a style that’s become unique to E3W Productions. Once again, the depth of scene in each part of the house is emphasized in stunning detail by the impeccable set design. These rooms are old, groaning against their walls with the weight of not just the lives lived within them, but all the deaths that followed in their wake. The spaces E3W creates are so intricate that they exist in a perfect sense of hyper-reality; they are at once impossible and so, so real.
From these seemingly innocent halls and corners springs the impossible: a cave full of twinkling lights, a post-war hideaway, a room all in white, and a genuine sense of sorrow and foreboding. Floating throughout, the starting point for so much of the tone alongside Daniel Tator’s sound design, is Matthew David and Jeremy Lamb’s haunting original score, gently touching the ears in intimate moments, before exploding in fearful frenzy.
“Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”
Once again, the strength of the cast—E3W’s smallest ensemble to date—is what allows creators Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling and Natalie Jones’ flawless prose to take on a life of it’s own. E3W regular performers Dan Dorff, Kali Cook, Sierra Allison, and Ian Dick are once again featured players in an achingly beautiful narrative. Joining them are Emily Goss and Tiffany Hubbard to round out the ghostly hosts, deftly handling the audience as they shift between storytelling that’s at one moment as comforting as a bedtime story before abruptly shifting to the genuine unease of a moonlit campfire tale. In that regard, sprinkled throughout In Another Room are several moments that, in their subtlety, are as unsettling as any straightforward “haunt,” only conveyed with emphatic honesty. The story resonates as full of heart, and yet is not for the faint hearted.
“Don’t be so afraid all the time. We never know where our courage is coming from.”
Though the original In Another Room was a beautiful adventure, far ahead of it’s time, the current In Another Room feels somehow like an even more complete story. Actresses Cook, Allison, and Gross carry the arching narrative throughout, their performances setting an eerie tone. Their powerful female forces, buoyed along by the always present and welcome influence of writer Shirley Jackson and her masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House, are the firm, melancholy base for the entire production. Meanwhile, their individual stories, revealed in private encounters, are enthralling. That audience members only get an extra moment with one of the three at a time is perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the experience.
E3W Productions, without question, has done it again with In Another Room’s sequel. They have completely transformed the space, yes, but also even their own original concept of a ghost story. The second In Another Room is not just about the tragedy of sudden deaths, it is a love letter to the struggles of the lives that preceded them. Life isn’t pretty—nor so is death—but the grace with which E3W and In Another Room portrays them both is breathtaking—another triumph from an immersive theatre company that continues to evolve and impress as it creates. As the doors of the house shut behind its departing guests, it seems it’s only fitting that the Keelings and Jones have told stories about ghosts—the moving experience of In Another Room lingers in the soul, hanging there like a spirit without a resting place.
Featured photo: Emily Goss as Judith