Shhhh! Fizzy Speakeasy fun until it’s not

Speakeasy Review 1
The 1920s roar again in the new immersive theater experience The Speakeasy from Boxcar Theatre. Audience members roam a Prohibition-era speakeasy’s bar, casino and cabaret in an undisclosed location and interact with actors including (from left) Danielle Gray, Gabe Kenney, Peter Ruocco, Gabriel Montoya and Brian Martin. Below: Montoya (left) and Kasondra Walsh have an intimate coversation in a dressing room. Photos by Peter Liu

So I met a fella in a yellow fedora on the steps of a museum, and he told me where to go to find The Speakeasy, a new interactive theater experience created by Nick A. Olivero and Boxcar Theatre.

I reviewed the show for the San Francisco Chronicle, and I have to say this was a hard review to write only because I so wanted to love this ambitious enterprise. The idea is fantastic – re-create the illicit thrills and chills of an illegal speakeasy circa 1923, complete with bathtub gin and moonshine cocktails (which are quite tasty, by the way). Throw in an intimate cabaret stage and house band, a fully equipped casino and you’ve got a recipe for an evening of Roaring ’20s fun.

But that’s just it: getting there and immersing yourself in the world of the show is really the most enjoyable part. Once the play begins, it’s not much fun at all – very serious, in fact. And all that anticipation for a fizzy night fades away.

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

There are singing, dancing, drinking and gambling, and those are the best parts of the three-hour “Speakeasy” experience. As a nightclub, this place jumps.

As a theatrical enterprise, however, the show proves more challenging. An impressive team of 35 actors attempts to command audience attention away from the vice and to the drama. Depending in which room your experience begins (some audience members are in the bar, others are in the cabaret), you might witness two World War I buddies having a tense reunion (complete with flashbacks to the trenches), a married couple from Concord still grieving their son’s death in the war but trying to find the saloon girl he left behind, or the arrival of a flapper with a wandering eye.

Read the full review here.

Speakeasy Review 3

[bonus interview]
I interviewed The Speakeasy creator Nick A. Olivero for the Chronicle. Read the feature here.

Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy continues through April 26 at an undisclosed location. Address revealed after ticket purchase. Tickets are $60-$70.