Paradiso: Chapter 1

Theater, Interactive
3 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(5user reviews)
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp
 (Photograph: Caleb Sharp)
Photograph: Caleb Sharp

Paradiso: Chapter 1—Theater review by Jenna Scherer

Anyone who's been to Sleep No More,Then She Fell or their ilk will tell you that a big part of the pleasure comes from being permitted to linger. There are performers to watch, sure, but there are also the rooms full of drawers to rifle through, set pieces to puzzle over, moods to get lost in.

So it's perhaps not surprising that an attempt to blend immersive theater with the escape-room trend doesn't quite work as intended. Paradiso: Chapter 1 is an ambitious but not quite successful hybrid of the two. Experiential theater fans will feel harried, and escape room aficionados will likely not find the puzzle challenging enough. Still, it's a pretty fun adrenaline rush.

For those unfamiliar with the escape-room concept: It's essentially a live-action video game in which a group of players are locked in a room and made to uncover clues and solve puzzles to make their way out. (Elsewhere in town, you can make your way out of a Victorian library or a zombie-infested laboratory.)

Enter Michael Counts (The Walking Dead Experience) with this high-concept, high-budget take that involves multiple rooms, many actors and a narrative that promises to continue beyond this first volume. The concept necessitates not knowing too many details in advance, but suffice to say that it involves a sinister corporation, conspiracies and copious references to Dante's Divine Comedy.

You enter Paradiso in a group of up to 10, and you'll have one hour to figure out how to escape—or fail to, and hang your head in shame. There's a timer in every room counting down, and actors you'll come across who will either help or hinder. Willing suspension of disbelief is key here; it's all very clearly fake, but you must trick yourself into believing you're in danger for this to be fun.

As someone who enjoys exploring, I found myself frustrated by the time constraint. There's a seemingly elaborate mythology behind Paradiso's world—and so many cool drawers to open!—but you're distracted from learning more by the necessity to beat the clock. At the same time, it's also hard to stop and listen to a character's paranoid monologue when you know you could be putting keys in locks.

All that said: If you ever wanted to be the protagonist in a cheesy action flick, welcome to your sandbox. Set, lighting and sound design (with help from multimedia effects company BeSIDE) set a convincing mood, and you're encouraged to get as into the make-believe of the thing as you want to. So grab your pistol, Mr. Bond: We have a pickle to get out of.—Jenna Scherer

Location TBA. Conceived and directed by Michael Counts. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.


Average User Rating

5 / 5

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Much more than your average escape-room experience! The interactive element made for a unique and engaging event full of twists, turns and surprises. Definitely recommended!

I agree with Massimo and Liza!  We had a great time at Paradiso: Chapter 1.  We were a small group so we were teamed up with other people.   Figuring out how to strategize with strangers just added to the experience, and soon we were completely engaged.  We've been to a number of "interactive" theatrical experiences before, this was our most favorite.  When the first character that you "meet" gives you better "side eye" than your adolescent kids, your suspension of disbelief comes rather quickly.  We actually were a mixed-age group, and we all had a great time.  We HIGHLY recommend it!  

I went with 10 of my girl friends and we all LOVED it. The sets are incredibly well done and beautifully detailed. Without giving away too much, this is like an escape-room experience on steroids - you have to solve the puzzles to get though multiple rooms. If you enjoy playing suspenseful games, this is for you! Recommend highly. 

This was such an awesome experience and better than I expected. A group of my friends went and really had a great time... became very intense and challenging.  Make sure to wear your thinking hat!! 

I actually really liked the show.  We had a fun group that were all experienced escape room patrons and this one blew our socks off.  I also loved Sleep no More but think this is a different experience.  I have sent two groups in from my office after going. If you want something different to do in NYC i would suggest this.