A fifty-five minute glory of immersive theater, Rough House Theater’s “The Walls of Harrow House” is a delightfully unnerving fusion of ambiance and story. I can’t spoil too much. This show, more than most, is experiential: a disembodied ear guides you to play a cassette tape. The walls whisper to you. The mold moves. It’s thoughtful, ambitiously designed and cohesive. It’s “Sesame Street” meets “Pan’s Labyrinth” meets “Bioshock.”
The Chopin basement is a marvelous starting place for a tour of Harrow House. There are two tracks: after a short introduction, half the audience is allowed on the official tour. The other half… well, you get stuck in the lobby with an overeager fanboy who eventually enthuses his way into the house by way of a maligned, philosophizing author.
The house itself is wonderful, containing enough nooks and crannies to fill you in on expositional details of the world as well as occupy you while you wait for the puppeteers to rumble through: two draftsmen, each tempering the other; the guts-filled coat that keeps putting on different faces; the dog! These walls hold myriad stories, each with a distinct flavor, but held wisely by the shared history of the house.
Again, I can’t speak too much: the experience is overwhelmingly positive and Rough House’s work is extensive and wonderfully imaginative. The musical set piece and ending are especially encapsulating. Perhaps the only problem with this show is how good it sounds and how much attention it’s drawing: the crowd made moving through the house very difficult, sight lines were shot by a curious audience member, and the request to remain silent at the beginning was not followed, marring the amazing work being done.
All in all, “Harrow House” is a wonderful experience, but the space management makes enjoying it a bit difficult. (Jay Van Ort)
Rough House Theater at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division, roughhousetheater.com. $15-$25. Through November 10.