You Have Until Saturday to See ‘The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini’
You had us at Houdini. Throw in a séance, a water tank, and a disputed death, and we were completely hooked.
We were already longtime fans of artist, writer and producer Cynthia von Buhler’s work (The Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Bloody Beginning, The Brothers Booth, The Illuminati Ball), so when we heard that her latest immersive theater production, “The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini” was being performed nearby, we had to investigate.
Based on von Buhler’s noir comic book series and graphic novel of the same name, the theater piece explores the events leading up to the death of the famed illusionist Houdini, with various characters taking contradictory points of view.
When we entered the building, we were immediately transported to 1926, and given a “passport” which allowed us to follow one character throughout the evening as he or she interacted with the other actors. (Like other immersive theater pieces, guests who come back for another performance can see things that they have missed. In this case, they can follow a different character, seeing the story through new eyes.)
We got to follow private detective Minky Woodcock (played by the truly fabulous burlesque star and actress Pearls Daily), who discovers secrets about the final days of Houdini’s death. Among other characters, we crossed paths with Houdini himself (Vincent Cinque); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Lord Kat), who believes that Houdini has supernatural powers; and Bess Houdini (Robyn Adele Anderson), who suspects that her husband is cheating on her. And also a live rabbit named Agatha Christie.
The performance takes place in the historic townhouse which today includes the William Barnacle Tavern (formerly Sheib’s Place, a speakeasy where the New York City Council drank during Prohibition), along with the 199-seat Theatre 80 Saint Marks. The audience also follows the actors upstairs into apartments which have been transformed into a hotel room, a detective’s office and other settings.
We had a wonderful guide who helped the audience along in case anyone got lost. The set design, costumes, script and actors were quite mesmerizing, and when we left, we weren’t exactly sure what time period we were in.
We don’t want to give too much away, but we were truly, well, immersed in the characters, the locations and the mystery.
“The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini” runs until this Saturday, November 10. Tickets can be purchased here. Costumes are encouraged but not mandatory (of course, we DID dress for the occasion). Comfortable shoes are suggested, since you’ll be walking around as well as climbing stairs.