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Sleep No More
Photograph: Courtesy Robin RoemerSleep No More

The best immersive theater in New York right now

Put yourself in the middle of the action at immersive plays and interactive theater experiences beyond Broadway

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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When it comes to theater, who says you have to just sit and watch? Immersive theater in New York City puts you right in the middle of the action, and often draws you in to participate. Whereas most Broadway shows still follow the traditional proscenium-arch model, immersive Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions tend break down the barriers between actors and spectators, letting you follow your own paths through unconventional spaces. Since they are often intimate and interactive, these shows have been slow to return from the pandemic shutdown—the king of them all, the long-running Sleep No More, will not be back until February—but there is still a lot to choose from in the months ahead. To help you navigate the maze of options, here is our list of the city's best immersive and interactive shows.

RECOMMENDED: Best Broadway shows

Immersive Theater in NYC

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • Chelsea

A New York institution since 2011, Punchdrunk’s dark, sleek, gorgeous installation is awe-inspiring in both its size and detail. Silent audience members in creepy white masks are set free in a six-floor labyrinth of wonders, while roving attractive actor-dancers plays out enigmatic scenes inspired by Macbeth and Hitchcock. There are more than 90 different spaces to explore, ranging from a candy shop to a cemetery. There’s no way to absorb it all in a single visit, but that’s all right. You’ll want to go back anyhow. First, though, you'll have to wait: Originally scheduled to return this fall, the show's reopening has now been pushed to February.—Adam Feldman

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • Flatiron

Nightdrive's smart, funny, topical and very well-performed immersive show is the coolest new play you probably can't see; it is performed around a campfire in a secret Brooklyn location for just six to eight audience members at a time. (Please, sir, may we have s'mores?) Skylar Fox, who cowrote the script with Simon Henriques directs a cast of five in this tale of young camp counselors reckoning with impending crisis. With so few slots available, your best shot is to sign up for the company's wait list.—Adam Feldman

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  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • DUMBO

A new take on the legendary Bozo the Clown is among the many attractions at the inaugural edition of Remarkable Entertainment's Empire Circus, an immersive children-of-all-ages experience at Dumbo's five-story Empire Stores (home to the Time Out Market) and its riverside courtyard. Attendees choose their own paths through a variety of acts in a show directed and cocreated by stage and circus performer Lorenzo Pisoni. The actor David Arquette, who now own the rights to Bozo, serves as the project's creative director. [Not yet reviewed.]

  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • West Village

Creator-directors Darren Lee Cole and Alexander Wright transform the SoHo Playhouse into a Jazz Age speakeasy with 15 different rooms in this immersive theater experience, set on the night of the 1929 municipal election in which incumbent Jimmy Walker—abetted by the mighty Tammany Hall political machine—trounced Fiorello H. La Guardia. Expect to hobnob with such historical figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt, gangster Legs Diamond and showgirls Betty Compton and Marion “Kiki” Roberts. [Not yet reviewerd.]

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  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • East Village

The immersive theater company Witness mounts a free, durational pop-up installation-performance inspired by Aechylus's Oresteia cycle. For eight straight hours a day, Arjun Pande plays Orestes, performing ancient Greek rituals in hope of communicating with the gods about his decision to murder his mother to avenge her murder of his father to avenge his murder of their daughter. Beware of Greeks bearing grudges! Reservations are not accepted, and audiences may come at any time and explore the space—an East Village storefront reimagined as a safe house near Argos, packed with germane artifacts and family mementos—for as long as they want (though if there is a line, they will have to wait in it again to reenter the event).

  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • Hell's Kitchen

The dance-theater duo Welcome to Campfire, which consists of of Sleep No More alums Ingrid Kapteyn and Tony Bordonaro, premieres its largest installation-performance to date. In this immersive sci-fi tale, set in New York City after a nuclear war—and staged in a large space on 42nd Street that has been christened the Memredux Laboratories for this show—the dancers play test subjects for a new drug designed to erase traumatic memories. [Not yet reviewed.]

 

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  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • Fort Greene

Jim Niesen stages Lewis Carroll’s adventure as an environmental production by converting the considerable Irondale Center space (a refurbished 19th-century church building) into a warren of rabbit holes, attics and tea parties. First mounted in 2010, this ambitious show, adapted collaboratively by Niesen and the Irondale Ensemble and designed by Ken Rothchild, veers among multiple styles and tones to convey the topsy-turvy world of Alice's journey. Five actors perform multiple roles for a peripatetic audience of 30. [Not yet reviewed.]

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • Chelsea

The low-key dazzling Speakeasy Magick has moved to a small wood-framed room at Gallow Green, and its dark and noisy new digs suit it well. Hosted by Todd Robbins, the show is a moveable feast of legerdemain; audience members, seated at seven tables, are visited by a series of performers in turn. There are a few brief performances on a makeshift stage, but it’s the highly skilled close-up magic that really leaves you gasping with wonder.—Adam Feldman

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  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Tribeca

Pitchblack Immersive Experiences, which specializes in creating theater in total darkness, presents a live audio experience set on an airplane from New York to Buenos Aires. Members of the audience don blindfolds and headphones to experience the show, which also involves the senses of touch and smell. Playwright Martín Bondone codirects with Facundo Bogarín; the company, which is based in Argentina, includes many blind and low-vision people. [Not yet reviewed.]

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • Chelsea
Appropriately billed as "a ghost play in a pub," Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s horror novel The Woman in Black pairs shots with hair-raising shocks. Presented as a play within a play, this gothic tale of woe is set in a secluded house by the sea in early-20th-century England. There are spellbinding moments, but unlike other theatrical ghost stories, The Woman in Black doesn’t cut deep. It’s about the mood, not the mystery.—Raven Snook
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