A humorous factor occurred at Dead Letter No. 9, a brand new efficiency area in Brooklyn. It was simply after 10 p.m. on a Saturday in late October. The night’s present had completed, however the viewers wouldn’t depart — crowding as a substitute into the adjoining bar for cocktails, mocktails and flatbreads.
Although New York Metropolis has its cabaret areas and piano bars, theater and nightlife largely occupy separate addresses. Blame temperament or actual property or the lingering results of cabaret legal guidelines (finally repealed in 2017), which required a license to permit patrons to bounce, however generally those that lengthy for a drink and a present on the identical time have needed to accept overpriced chardonnay in sippy cups. Ah, the glamour.
New exhibits and new venues are blurring these strains. Although I’m a girl with a hilariously low tolerance for alcohol who likes to be in mattress simply because the cable TV exhibits are getting good, I attended three of those performances over the previous few weeks, buying and selling a great night time’s sleep for this superabundant method (drinks, snacks, dance, card methods, elaborate lingerie) to night leisure.
I started with “Useless Letter No. 9,” the title of each the present and the nondescript constructing that homes it on Grand Road in Williamsburg, not removed from the East River. After getting into by the incorrect door, a pal and I had been redirected to a distinct one, which led to the area’s nice, unassuming bar. A seltzer later, it was time for the present to start.
The entrance of the area correct was a dimly lit mail room, full of mislaid letters and misplaced packages. We had been outfitted with Casio watches and handed a letter of our personal, an invite to a 2007 commencement celebration in Redding, Conn., then led down a hallway and right into a small room adorned like a treehouse. (There have been two different rooms out there: a North Carolina porch from 1986 and a California camp from 1993.) We took a seat on a creaking steel cot. 4 different viewers members reclined elsewhere. A number dressed as a mail provider provided us vodka, beer and bottles of Mike’s Onerous Lemonade.
At first the dialog was of the stilted where-are-you-from and how-did-you-find-out-about-the-show selection. Then, as minutes flashed by on the Casios and different contributors blended vodka into their arduous lemonade, everybody relaxed. Folks went. Folks got here. When the mail provider left, the daddy of the ostensible graduates joined us. He appeared to wish to discuss an outdated soccer harm, however the remainder of us had come to know each other by then. We had our personal story strains to pursue. I one way or the other discovered myself speaking about each Frankfurt College essential principle and the time a magician sawed me in half. (Sure, I used to be sober. And no, I don’t get out a lot.) After a really fast hour, the Casio alarm beeped, a sign that we needed to depart the room. I by no means did study a lot concerning the graduating youngsters.
When my pal and I exited, the individuals who had left earlier than us had been ready within the bar space. As a chunk of theater, “No. 9” was skinny, stronger on environment than on narrative or motion. However as an icebreaker, it was maximally efficient. Everybody appeared to wish to keep and maintain the dialog going. Just a few forged members, who had since modified out of their costumes, joined, too. Attendees may then head deeper into the area, the place a dance ground waited.
“If I wish to go wild in a nightclub area, I’d love to have the ability to try this in the identical room that I may have a quiet chew and a wealthy dialog,” Michael Ryterband, a creator and the sound designer of “No. 9,” mentioned in a current interview. “That’s what we made. That is completely a nightlife various.”
His enterprise associate Taylor Myers, who directed the manufacturing, gently corrected him: “It’s not another. It’s nightlife.”
The following week, I took the L practice just a few stops farther into Brooklyn to “Cocktail Magique,” a present from Company XIV that started performances a few 12 months in the past. I had discovered the corporate’s earlier exhibits, like “Seven Sins,” effortfully attractive, even exhausting. However “Cocktail Magique” is a looser, giddier affair, starting with an upscale Jell-O shot (chartreuse!) and ending with a frozen dessert within the form of a hen leg, with a lewd balloon animal routine in between.
“I actually just like the area to really feel prefer it’s as a lot a celebration as attainable, actually really feel ample and inclusive,” Austin McCormick, the corporate’s founder, advised me.
“Cocktail Magique,” created and directed by McCormick, takes the type of a playful burlesque revue. New York will not be missing for burlesque, however in contrast to the Slipper Room or House of Yes, by which the acts operate as addenda to the bar service, “Cocktail Magique” is the purpose-built area’s sultry, boozy raison d’être.
Viewers members sit dealing with the stage, adorned in a riot of jungle animals and filigree. Sturdy cocktails complement the varied burlesque routines, which embody a dance quantity set to “Love Potion No. 9” and a balancing act atop champagne bottles. The magic might not dazzle, and never each scene is precisely tasteful (there’s a homage to Josephine Baker’s banana dance), however the performers, gorgeously appareled, are very good and their delight is intoxicating. (So are the highly effective cocktails, which I needed to abandon after a trial sip.) The emphasis was on magnificence and extra, from the iris-infused gin within the Cleopatra’s Pearl to the customized corsetry and glitter pasties adorning the female and male performers.
As at “No. 9,” the group lingered, ending their cocktails and chatting about what they’d seen. McCormick, who additionally operates one other area close by, goals of a theater that might rework right into a nightspot.
“Folks love to hang around and have a drink and blend and mingle,” he mentioned. “My fantasy is a spot the place we will do one thing cool after the present.”
Grimmer fantasies had been on show at “Hypnotique” on the McKittrick Resort, which additionally hosts the soon-to-close “Sleep No More.” The McKittrick, in Manhattan, has typically sought to increase the night with magic exhibits, concert events, events and different occasions. Billed as an evening of “spontaneous performances and mesmerizing dancers,” “Hypnotique” is a strip present and one of the vital joyless shows of eroticism I’ve ever seen — a dutiful, glitter-addled march from one show of naked breasts to the subsequent. Spontaneity had fled.
Created by Whitney Sprayberry and Reginald Robson, “Hypnotique” invitations audiences — their telephones locked away — into the Membership Automotive bar the place 4 males in mesh shirts made attractive faces and moved furnishings as a chanteuse sang “Mild My Hearth.” They had been quickly joined by six girls in printed robes, sunglass and granny scarves. The scarves come off. So does almost every part else. Set to songs like “Want You Tonight,” “Lucy within the Sky With Diamonds” and “Dangerous Women,” the routines had been superbly executed and nearly fully soulless. I’ve felt extra frisson at P.T.A. conferences. My fireplace? Unlit.
The parade had an unvarying high quality, with no routine full till a dancer had freed her nipples. The dancers had been slim, lovely and — in distinction to the gleeful, polymorphous perversity of “Cocktail Magique” — mechanical and unenthusiastic as they wriggled and unhooked. (I consider in the proper of any lady to take off her clothes. I simply need her to look as if it’s her thought.)
I did, nonetheless, benefit from the strobe-lit feathers that flew throughout a pillow combat scene and the yassified leaf blower used to tidy them. After the ultimate balconette bra had been eliminated, the night probably advanced (devolved?) right into a dance celebration. I wouldn’t know. It was previous midnight, previous my bedtime, and previous a number of a long time of feminist thought and features. I used to be already poured into the again seat of a automobile, zipping towards Brooklyn the place a e book and a mug of natural tea — my nightlife various — had been ready.