A humorous factor occurred at Dead Letter No. 9, a brand new efficiency house 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 go away — 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 principally occupy separate addresses. Blame temperament or actual property or the lingering results of cabaret legal guidelines (lastly repealed in 2017), which required a license to permit patrons to bounce, however usually those that lengthy for a drink and a present on the identical time have needed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 reveals 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 reveals are getting good, I attended three of those performances over the previous couple of weeks, buying and selling a very good evening’s sleep for this superabundant method (drinks, snacks, dance, card methods, elaborate lingerie) to night leisure.
I started with “Useless Letter No. 9,” the identify 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 via the incorrect door, a pal and I have been redirected to a unique one, which led to the house’s nice, unassuming bar. A seltzer later, it was time for the present to start.
The entrance of the house correct was a dimly lit mail room, filled with mislaid letters and misplaced packages. We have been outfitted with Casio watches and handed a letter of our personal, an invite to a 2007 commencement social gathering 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 Laborious 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 individuals combined 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 need to discuss an outdated soccer damage, 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 crucial idea 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 go away the room. I by no means did study a lot in regards to the graduating children.
When my pal and I exited, the individuals who had left earlier than us have been ready within the bar space. As a bit of theater, “No. 9” was skinny, stronger on ambiance than on narrative or motion. However as an icebreaker, it was maximally efficient. Everybody appeared to need to keep and hold the dialog going. A number of solid members, who had since modified out of their costumes, joined, too. Attendees may then head deeper into the house, the place a dance flooring waited.
“If I need to go wild in a nightclub house, I’d love to have the ability to do 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,” stated in a latest interview. “That’s what we made. That is completely a nightlife different.”
His enterprise companion Taylor Myers, who directed the manufacturing, gently corrected him: “It’s not another. It’s nightlife.”
The subsequent 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 reveals, 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 house to really feel prefer it’s as a lot a celebration as attainable, actually really feel considerable 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 is just not missing for burlesque, however in contrast to the Slipper Room or House of Yes, through which the acts operate as addenda to the bar service, “Cocktail Magique” is the purpose-built house’s sultry, boozy raison d’être.
Viewers members sit going through 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 could 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 excellent 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 gang lingered, ending their cocktails and chatting about what that they had seen. McCormick, who additionally operates one other house close by, goals of a theater that would rework right into a nightspot.
“Folks love to hang around and have a drink and blend and mingle,” he stated. “My fantasy is a spot the place we are able to do one thing cool after the present.”
Created by Whitney Sprayberry and Reginald Robson, “Hypnotique” invitations audiences — their telephones locked away — into the Membership Automobile bar the place 4 males in mesh shirts made attractive faces and moved furnishings as a chanteuse sang “Gentle My Hearth.” They have been quickly joined by six ladies in printed robes, sunglass and granny scarves. The scarves come off. So does almost all the things else. Set to songs like “Want You Tonight,” “Lucy within the Sky With Diamonds” and “Unhealthy Women,” the routines have been fantastically executed and nearly solely soulless. I’ve felt extra frisson at P.T.A. conferences. My hearth? Unlit.
The parade had an unvarying high quality, with no routine full till a dancer had freed her nipples. The dancers have been slim, stunning and — in distinction to the gleeful, polymorphous perversity of “Cocktail Magique” — mechanical and unenthusiastic as they wriggled and unhooked. (I imagine in the appropriate of any girl to take off her clothes. I simply need her to look as if it’s her concept.)
I did, nonetheless, benefit from the strobe-lit feathers that flew throughout a pillow battle scene and the yassified leaf blower used to tidy them. After the ultimate balconette bra had been eliminated, the night possible developed (devolved?) right into a dance social gathering. 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 automotive, zipping towards Brooklyn the place a e-book and a mug of natural tea — my nightlife different — have been ready.