You are an investor. You are invited to the home of renowned architect Milton Harrow. You are invited to underwrite Harrow’s vision of utopia: The Silent City. You are greeted by the home’s director of preservation, Vincent Adler. You hear mysterious sounds. A disembodied hand with a baby’s head warns you, via overhead projector, to question the truth behind the masks before it’s shooed away.
Dare you enter?
Rough House Theater’s haunted-puppet immersive theater continues with “The Silence in Harrow House,” the latest installment of the story of Harrow. Devised and performed by the ensemble of skilled puppeteers, written by Mark Maxwell (also a performer) and Claire Saxe and directed and scenically designed by Mike Oleon, this hour-long walk through experience is a horror lover’s dream.
The gore you find at a traditional haunted house is replaced by lore found laying around the space. The mythical monsters of yesteryear are also replaced by ghoulish creatures of a different kind. Care to lend a hand to a woman who lost hers? How about helping a headless torso find a missing object? Just mind your steps because you might find a lost hand scuttling around your feet.
What makes “Silence” such a fascinating piece of theater is twofold. For one, it’s anything but silent. It’s also always fun to venture into a choose-your-own-adventure story. I found myself purposefully engaging with the puppets or following them down corridors. My reward was additional bits of dialogue and interactions, while my fellow audience members were given candy or spooked into a corner.
Although an interesting premise, one of the frustrating parts of “Silence” is the utopian backstory about the house. It’s hard to believe that any aspect of the home would have ever been considered paradise, even by the most disturbed people. That aside, this is the kind of immersive work folks need to experience, if they have the fortitude.
From Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired sconces and eerie Morse code rhythms created by the creatures to recordings and books to peruse, you’re unlikely to leave the experience wholly understanding what Harrow’s story is. Perhaps, as time goes on, we’ll learn more of Harrow’s life through Rough House. If that means more work for the skilled puppeteer crew and their designers, bring it on.
For now, get thee to Harrow House. I triple-dog dare you. (Amanda Finn)
Rough House Theater Company at Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division, (773)278-1500, roughhousetheater.com, $20-$32. Through November 10.