At first, it begins like any other party. You arrive and the hostess greets you as a guest. You grab a nametag and a drink, and settle into your surroundings, a small East Village apartment. You make small talk with some strangers. You notice there’s a lull typical of the start of many parties. You hear the music playing through an iPod, all from the year 1993 you are told. Then characters start arriving and the party gets…interesting. You have arrived at Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion.
Mrs. Mayfield’s is a hilarious, often touching, and especially voyeuristic immersive party play. Unlike Sleep No More, another immersive, site-specific theatrical experience, there are no masks to hide under, and the only scary thing is how similar some of the characters are to people you actually know. There’s the friendly, gregarious hostess, Amanda (Diana Oh); her best friend, the bohemian Robin (Lindsey Austen); the beautiful and successful Veronica (Gwenevere Sisco); the happy-go-lucky Jamie (Jesse Geguzis); the quietly angry Nathaniel (Christopher Norwood); and the mysterious Crystal (Lauren Hennessy). Rounding out the cast is Veronica’s snobbish husband, Preston (Brian Dunlop), Amanda’s ex-boyfriend, Jason (Adam La Faci), and one of the most intriguing characters, Joey (Jordan Tierney), the younger brother of the group’s former classmate, who sadly met a tragic end.
Caps Lock Theatre is the architect of this production, written by Mariah MacCarthy in collaboration with the entire ensemble, director Leta Tremblay, associate director Trent Anderson, J. Stephen Brantley, Scott Rad Brown, Nicki Miller, and Elizabeth Seldin. While the play is scripted, much of it feels like improv, with characters at first enacting almost mundane getting-to-reknow-you scenes. Then as secrets are unearthed and relationships begin to unfold, the dynamics between these characters really start to take shape and become interesting.
You are able to indicate on your nametag whether you want the actors to interact with you or not. But really, why would you go to such an event if you didn’t want to interact? In reality, the instances of interaction are somewhat minimal and the opportunities to simply watch the drama unfold are abundant. Often there are multiple scenes going on in different parts of the apartment. However, the place is so intimate, you can sometimes watch two scenes going on at the same time, depending on where you are situated.
There’s nothing like dancing, singing, laughing and crying with some strangers to make you feel as though theatre in New York has been renewed. The realistic dialogue, facilitated by the party atmosphere, makes it feel as though you are really a part of Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion.