Wednesday, May 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Willows (From the minds of Creep Los Angeles)

Photo by Hatbox Photography

The first indication that we were in the right place was the lantern. It flickered softly on the sidewalk, on the opposite side of the street from where we'd parked our car. A man in black stood nearby, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Where did he come from?” I asked Mr. Spooky. Truly, I hadn’t seen him walk up - it was instead as if he had slowly materialized out of thin air, like mist creeping around the headstones in a graveyard. The night was warm but suddenly it felt like fall, like Halloween was just a few days away and not months in the future.

We approached. “Are you here for The Willows?” he asked.

Indeed, we were.

We stood and waited, near the lantern and its mysterious keeper, as others began to arrive in their party clothes, chatting and laughing. Suddenly, an announcement: Our ride would be here soon, to ferry us to the Willows’ family estate. Silence - and blindfolds - were mandatory for the short trip. 

Finally, our chariot: An unmarked van. I pulled the silky panel over my eyes, fastened my seatbelt, and surrendered.

Does all of this sound shady? It’s not. It wasn’t.

Photo by Hatbox Photography

The Willows is not an event that traffics in cheap thrills or jump scares. It’s not a haunted attraction, or dinner theater, or a Sleep No More-style interactive play - not exactly. It’s none of those things, and yet it’s all of them at once.

Am I being too cryptic? As with Creep - the eerie and innovative haunt that shares a creative team with The Willows - the less you know going in, the more you’ll have to discover on your own. And discovery is, after all, the fun of the thing.

Here’s what you can expect: Several hours of intriguing character development and world building from a talented cast who make you feel like you’re actually an honored guest at a bizarre and unsettling dinner party, and not an audience member or (gulp) an improv scene partner. You will be plied with drinks and food and led around a beautiful, enigmatic home full of sadness and secrets. You will be asked to give yourself over to the experience completely - to answer questions that might make you uncomfortable, to read documents you don’t quite understand, to share a dance with someone you might otherwise not have met. You will be puzzled, thrilled, tantalized, amused, and ultimately haunted by all you witness and learn during your evening with the Willows family.

If you're concerned, rest assured that you will not be harmed or humiliated. While this is not an event for a passive audience, it's also not a haunt (and even if it were, the Willows are far too classy for such crass antics!). Don’t be afraid! Observe. Converse. Engage.

Photo by Hatbox Photography
Those of you who feel that ache for October, who are counting down the days until the shadows lengthen and darkness again overtakes the light: Accept this invitation from The Willows. It is more than worth the price of admission.

Perhaps you’ll become part of the family. Perhaps, finally, you’ll come home.

The Willows are waiting to meet you. Don’t disappoint them.

All currently scheduled performances of The Willows are sold out, but more dates will be added soon. Sign up to be notified of future ticket opportunities.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes to review this event.

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