You walk into an undisclosed location and are sworn in as a member of a Grand Jury. The crime is horrific. The suspect is in custody. Did he do it? The fate of this man is in your hands. PRECINCT 187 PRECINCT 187 PRECINCT 187 PRECINCT 187
From the minds of writer Lawrence Meyers (Porn Rock, Dark Arts, Picket Fences, The Pretender, The Outer Limits) and director Damien Gerard (The Tension Experience, The Willows, Delusion: The Blue Blade), PRECINCT 187 is based on a true crime, taking guests on a partially immersive walk-through of a young girl’s murder. As a sworn-in member of the Grand Jury, you and your fellow jurors are tasked with sorting through the evidence and deciding whether the suspect should go to trial or not.
The show was a mixture of original and adapted material. All of the crime photos, events, evidence and maps were taken from true events, which made the feeling in the air a bit more disturbing than any other immersive show that I have experienced. Audience members were warned of the graphic nature of the show beforehand. Regardless of having both interactive and spectator moments, the show was meant for audiences to break outside of their comfort zones so that they could concentrate on problem solving and finding the truth.
The three main characters – Detective Andrew St. Jude (Lawrence Meyers), Detective Lindsey Klein (Stephanie Hyden) and Risley Tuchman (Myles Cranford) – worked beautifully together. It was clear from the start that St. Jude was the one in charge, while Klein was new to the team. As the show went on, this became more apparent by the amount of mistakes that were made in the investigations. Those errors all led back to her. Hyden did a brilliant job of showing audiences that detectives are human, and make mistakes. Her character fumbled and became flustered as she had to own up to her oversights, such as forgetting a key piece of evidence, or describing things incorrectly. Unfortunately, those mistakes are what made this case more difficult for the detectives to solve. Meyers had the tough grit of a detective down pat, so he and Hyden elevated each other’s performances. St. Jude not only had to apologize for his rookie partner’s mistakes, but also had to reprimand her. The two played off each other very well.
Cranford put audience members in a very difficult position with his performance. He was so emotional and likeable in his role as the suspect, that despite circumstances pointing in his direction, no one was fully convinced that he committed the crime. When asked about the girl, Tuchman would start to cry as he talked about her being his friend. As tears fell from his eyes, he shook his head and pleaded with the detectives that he could never hurt her. It seemed as though everyone felt the pain his character was in.
So many of us forget that behind each of these cases, there are people working tirelessly to find the answers. It’s distressing enough to know that a crime of this nature can be committed. It’s even more distressing to realize that it might be someone that you know, or have sat in a room with before. Meyers, Hyden and Cranford did a wonderful job presenting a disturbing crime piece respectfully and treating it with care, while letting the audience ask questions and search for answers themselves.
The Thymele Arts building seems to be a favorite amongst the immersive theater scene. I have found myself there for a number of shows with varying subject matter. The cool thing is that it can be transformed in a number of ways. We were first invited upstairs and into the headquarters where detectives were working hard to solve the murder. The windows of the room were covered in brown paper for secrecy. Maps were scattered around. The room was dimly lit, which was reminiscent of many old crime shows. Every detail was thoughtfully put together, including the evidence binders, which had pages upon pages of detailed evidence for us to go through. It was very fitting of the storyline, and made it easy to drift into the set as the story began to unfold. The only other room that we saw was the interrogation room. This room also had the windows covered, but gave off more of a grey/blue vibe that faded out into a vignette. It was more subdued, as all it really needed were a table and chairs. We were there to watch an interrogation. Anything flashier than that would have taken away from the story. There was no need for mics or fancy sound throughout the show, since it was meant to feel real, and it did.
Meyers deftly brought PRECINCT 187 to life. It has to be difficult adapting a play from a true crime, but he and the cast did an incredible job. The story was based on the murder of 11-year-old LaTonya Kim Wallace, who was murdered in the Reservoir Hill area of Baltimore in 1988. The clothing items (replicas), maps, neighborhood, and crime scene details included in the show were from that crime, along with details such as photos, the lack of any hard evidence, and more. They chose not to show any photos of the actual body, which was respectful given the nature of the crime. A few things were added, such as a new piece of evidence and the Grand Jury. The one suspect that several have focused on was a man referred to as “The Fish Man,” which Tuchman is loosely based on. “The Fish Man” happened to fail his polygraph, but no evidence was ever found to convict him, so he was let go. Keep in mind that this crime happened before DNA testing was standard. There have been a few books and even a television show on this case, but it remains unsolved. “The Fish Man” has since passed away, but most seem to think that he is guilty of the crime.
For a small production, PRECINCT 187 gave audiences a fun, slightly intense show with a lot of room for open interaction. It brought together puzzle-solving and fully allowed you to become part of the show. The actors allowed for a safe place to navigate such a grizzly crime without being too crass with grotesque imagery or descriptions. I was very impressed and left excited to discuss my experience with others.
PRECINCT 187 has come to a conclusion, and, according to Lawrence Meyers, there are no plans to bring it back. He will, however, be premiering an immersive new show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival entitled Problem Solved, which you can learn about HERE.
Haunting is a resource for immersive theater and horror fans in Los Angeles and across the world, promoting art and community. Want to help us reach even more people, and get some cool perks and experiences? For as little as $1 a month, you can join our Patreon, and help us keep bringing content to life.