Below is a review of Spy Brunch’s “Safehouse ’77,” for more information on Spy Brunch’s productions, click here.
Have you ever become someone else?
Think about the best party you’ve ever been to. Everything clicks: the food, the decor, the company. Now take this memory, add genuine intrigue and touch of espionage, and you have Spy Brunch’s Safehouse ’77 – a warp through time where guests have the rare opportunity to become a heightened version of themselves. In a beautiful house, nestled amongst some of the quieter streets of Los Angeles, your story changes on a dime. A casual gathering of 70’s beatniks and opinionated professionals slowly reveals an intriguing underbelly. It’s 1977, your new friend Sharon is hosting a party, and her invitation is well worth accepting.
Creator/Director Nick Rheinwald-Jones has paired his love of spy films and immersive theatre to fashion a memorable and exciting experience that appeals to new and established immersive theatre fans alike. In his first foray into the genre, Rheinwald-Jones displays a unique understanding of audience participation that is deft and admirable. Under his guidance, the Safehouse cast leaves no participant feeling unengaged or unable to guide their own story. What’s most remarkable is how little this show feels like a show; you could very well be enjoying some strong drinks and groovy party games amongst new companions. The easily discoverable mystery is merely an optional bonus that’s well worth seeking.
The fullness of the audience’s immersion is further supported by the impeccable attention to detail from production designer Alexis Rheinwald-Jones. Sharon’s home is the quintessential 70’s party pad, down to the magazines, cookware, artwork, even the kitschy toiletries. Not a detail is missed and, as such, Safehouse provides a seamless transition from the world outside to the world Rheinwald-Jones has created. Guests are also rarely left to their own devices; someone will always approach to add a wrinkle to their character’s narrative, or simply to improvise a chat. You can casually discuss the quality of the Chex mix with one character, while another whispers an invitation to embark on a bonafide spy caper. This ability to seamlessly integrate amongst the audience is a testament to the magnificent cast that’s been assembled.
Katie Rediger is party host Sharon, a strong-willed yet unassuming modern woman, determined to sing the praises of the Equal Rights Act despite the many distractions her returning boyfriend and his coworkers provide. Her beau, Lucas, is artfully portrayed by Terence Leclere disguising the mesmerizing level of vulnerability in his eyes with a facade of leading-man bravado. Also in this mix is Katelyn Schiller as Sonya, sensual and compelling with a breathtaking severity; her performance is so layered and effortless it’s as if she’s stumbled out of a fever dream. Jennifer Blanco and Nick Rheinwald-Jones play Carlotta and Max, husband and wife and the presumed backbone of the team of diplomatic consultants that Lucas and Sonya round out. Carlotta is serious, coyly abrasive, with a sense of contained danger about her, while Max is genial and welcoming despite some suspicious and ever-widening cracks in his veneer. Rounding out this group is Karlie Blair, as Sharon’s sister Connie, who carries a delightfully open crassness about her slender, almost angelic frame. Blair, with her ability to subtly tout Connie’s sense of self-importance throughout her engaging demeanor, is extremely well chosen as both guest’s initial contact point and as the common thread of casual decadence that serves as a reminder that this is still a party, after all.
Safehouse ’77 almost effortlessly does what immersive theater as a whole strives to do: completely submerge participants in a narrative while giving them a sense of full agency over the outcome of their own story. In this house, your choices matter, for good or bad, and the more involved you are, the more the final conclusion to the underlying spy vs spy tale will affect you. You can betray a new friend, flirt with another, and deeply connect with yet another, all in the course of an evening. If you’ve never become someone else, this is a pure and deeply entertaining opportunity to do so. Think about the best party you’ve ever been to, then think about what it would be like to attend that party as whatever version of yourself you wanted. Sharon, and Safehouse, can provide that experience for you. You just have accept the invite.
Safehouse ’77‘s sold out first run ends on December 3rd, 2017, but will likely extend. To keep updated on when new tickets are available, sign up for Spy Brunch’s mailing list here, and follow Safehouse on Instagram, on Twitter, or on Facebook.