Bleary-eyed and twisted up in my alternative down duvet, I awoke confused. I blinked a few times to confirm I was, indeed, awake, but visions of muscular men in black eye makeup, scantily clad women dangling from the ceiling and a stuffed snow tiger drenched in diamonds and pearls popped into my consciousness to suggest otherwise.
I stared out the window, watching the snow fall. That, too, triggered a memory: a blond-haired woman in a nude slip dancing; a man motioning for my hand to join them as white flakes fell all around us.
What in the…?
And then I saw it: the smudged letter “Q” in between my left thumb and forefinger.
I had been marked.
I shut my eyes again and there I was, leaning against a wall in hallway where a man in Thom Browne tuxedo shorts, knee socks and a sleeveless button-down collared shirt was caressing my cheek. He moved a curl away from my face and then whispered something in my ear before lifting my hand to draw the Q.
My eyes opened again.
It wasn’t just a dream.
Without this physical evidence, though, I’d be forgiven for thinking the wild, other-worldly shenanagins of the new show Queen of the Night very well could’ve been.
Since the element of surprise contributes to the allure of the show, which opened just a few weeks ago and is produced by the same people behind the equally mind-blowing Sleep No More, I will do my best to keep mum about certain details. Especially since I highly suggest those in (or visiting) New York City with a curious mind, high credit limit (tickets start at $225) and a side of kink, get themselves dolled up and on line outside the Paramount Theater in Midtown STAT. It may be spendy, but along with SNM and the other immersive, and incredibly intimate, theater experience Then She Fell, QOTN is well worth it and not to be missed.
There are no guarantees at QOTN. My “Q,” may be your private strip poker game; my short ribs may be your lobster. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get a mysteriously clever and sensual taste of a dream come true…
Here are a few things you can probably count on:
YOU WILL BE CONFUSED.
Upon descending the grand staircase to the Diamond Horseshoe, the main ballroom in the recently refurbished Paramount Hotel, which until now had been shuttered since 1951, you will stand and wait to be ushered in. With the exception of the nearly naked woman dancing by herself behind a glass wall, it will be hard to tell who’s “working” and who’s just one of the guests—especially since you’re asked to come dressed to “astound.” The invite states:
Dig into the deepest reaches of your armoires for the one piece you never thought you’d have occasion to wear—your finest jewels, your great-aunt’s vintage gown, your swankest of tuxedos.
There’s also a ton of interaction between the performers and audience members, so upon entering the ballroom the only real way to know for sure who’s “playing” and who’s just along for the ride is eye contact. The performers will stare into you. Not at you, but into you. It’s quite disarming, but invigorating, too. Numbers are called out on a sound system. You will wonder what they are. And you like me, you might not ever find out. Or, maybe you will. Embrace the WTF-ness. No one else knows what’s going on either.
YOU WILL BE FED.
The three-hour show includes cocktails and supper—but not just any buzzy libations and sustenance. Early on, dozens of pre-made bevvies featuring tangy tomato and vodka or sweet ginger and whiskey will line the “Mad Distillery” bar. Take one, or three. If you don’t like it, choose something else. If you do, take a few more. Be the Wolf of 46th Street! Mini canapes of foie gras will be passed around, but don’t worry if you don’t get any: The main course is worth the wait. It ain’t no bland, catering hall-type food. No, what is extravagantly brought out to the tables—which are suddenly set around the room within seconds as part of the performance—is meat, fish and pork in its most pure and opulent form, from the way it’s served to the way it’s bartered. (Yes, that’s right. Bartered. See, not every table gets the same thing, so if you don’t like…say, a little oink oink, well, you best prepare to make friends with the folks “clawing” at seafood or knawing on ribs at the table next to you.)
Then there are the decanters of table wine—a far cry from Manischewitz—that will flow more frequently than water. (I had to get up to get some. But that in itself was a treat as I got to see what was happening on the other side of the room.) Finally, there’s the piece de resistance: chocolate hazelnut cake. It’s not so much the taste that’s appealing, but rather the way in which it’s served… Open wide, ladies and gents. Open wide.
YOU WILL BE FONDLED.
Whether you’re there alone, as a couple or with friends, there’s a chance you may be “chosen” for one of ten intimate experiences each of the 33 cast members perform a night. Consider yourself lucky. If someone asks to take your hand—guy or girl—give it to them. Let them lead you somewhere; behind the stage and into a room dripping with hardened white candle wax, or to the hallway by the restrooms where the walls are covered in actual beetle wings. Or somewhere else I don’t know about. You may be alone, or you may be surrounded by people, but you won’t be disappointed for the one-on-one role play. (Do not worry if you’re sheepish: They don’t go beyond a brush of the cheek or a touch of the knee. At least…not that I know about.) Accept notes, pass them on and dance with a stranger. You may not see sparks fly, but baby, there’ll be fireworks.
YOU WILL BE DAZZLED.
Even for those who aren’t taken somewhere, there’s something jaw-dropping to watch at all times—and from every corner of the room, too. Really, I can guarantee that wherever you sit, you will think it’s the best seat in the house. (Only premium or ultimate tickets—$325 and $525 respectively—are escorted to assigned seats a bit further away from the center of the action. Otherwise, you’re sat at random with strangers, depending on the number in your party and where you happen to be standing at the official start of the show.) Performers of all types, from circus and modern dance to theater, nightlife, and magic, will jump through hoops, climb ropes and do flips on, under and around your table. Costumes are extravagant and, in some instances, scant. Oh and the music! It’s a sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric fairytale, complete with evil stepmother crescendos and happy ending piano soliloquies. There is a bit of a story going on, yes, and it (obviously) revolves around said Queen, “Marchesa,” who is throwing a coming out party of sorts for her daughter “Pamina.” But, well, it doesn’t matter. Just go and live the dream. Then wake up the next morning and wonder what the heck just happened.