Last Saturday, I spent my evening stumbling around in pitch black rooms, with nothing to light my path but the occasional flicker from a dying bulb. I hid under a table while an 8-foot creature lurked around the room, then when his back was turned, I darted out and up a flight of stairs, only to be met by a man who had been stabbed in the stomach, blood pouring out, begging for me to help him.
Then, after pushing a fake wall to reveal a badly needed clue to the mystery I was trying to solve, I let my guard down for a second. And that’s when the monster swinging from the ceiling grabbed at my hand. I barely got away.
Was this a nightmare, you ask? Perhaps the result of one too many horror movies this Halloween season?
No, it’s Delusion: Lies Within, LA’s spin on the well-worn concept of the Haunted House. Imagine an interactive Halloween play where you become part of the story.
This is my second year attending a Delusion play and there have been four so far. The plots change each year and I already can’t wait for next Halloween. But more about this year’s experience…
(for those in LA who might like to see this play that currently runs through mid-November, some spoilers ahead)
Delusion: Lies Within takes place in an old, creepy-looking, abandoned mansion in the historic West Adams district of LA. (Right around the corner from the Six Feet Under house, actually.)
It’s more than just a typical haunted house, with monsters jumping out at you and scary scenes that you walk through just to try and find the exit. Delusion: Lies Within is a play with a structured plot and mysteries to solve.
But before you think this is the type of play that takes place in one space of the house, let me remind that it is a moving play. The production uses the entire 108-year old mansion. There were lots of narrow staircases, dark corners, hidden rooms and creaky floors that added to the experience. In fact, the only way into the house (per the storyline, of course) was through a small 4-foot door at the back of the property. Nothing like being tossed into the experience from the very beginning!
The trick to something like this is just letting yourself go, giving yourself over to the experience of being an actual part of the production. It’s the most fun that way. There’s a set storyline (you can read about this year’s play here) and the actors do their best to stick to the “script,” but as you might guess, with an audience asked to take part in different ways, they have to be ready for anything. Some improv is expected, but it’s all pretty seamless. The actors do a great job of trying to involve everyone. Group members are asked to perform side tasks, answer questions and physically interact with the actors, and even crawl, climb and run away from characters if the story calls for it.
Stepping into the house was like stepping onto a movie set. This is the movie capital of the world, after all. The theater company didn’t skimp on production value, that’s for sure. The sound, the lighting, the actors, the level of detail in the sets – all top notch.
I wish I had photos, but taking them was strictly prohibited. I did find this video though, to give a taste of what the experience was like.
The play is conducted in a timed fashion, with groups of 8-10 people entering at a time. My husband and I were attending by ourselves, but next year we plan to get our own group together because it seems like it would be much more fun to go with a bunch of people that know each other.
I almost wish I had a chance to see the play for a second time. While I tend to get really into these things (I love scary movies and Halloween thrills in general) I found myself stepping out of the experience here and there just to marvel at the rooms, the actors and their makeup, the set design and just to appreciate the high-quality of everything. I even had a moment where I missed some dialogue from the actor with the stomach wound because I recognized him as a character in the play we saw last year. Sometimes I just need to shut my brain off in that regard and just go with the moment.
Anyone can attend a haunted house and have the typical monster scare and scream-your-head-off thrill. But where else can you check your outside identity at the door and play a part in a Hollywood-style, suspenseful and downright creepy storyline happening all around you, trying to solve mysteries and outrun the occasional baddie that lurks around a dark corner? Only in LA.