Review: “The Mortality Machine” at Wildrence

Photo: Zach Filkoff

Photo: Zach Filkoff

Max Berry

Contributing Critic - New York

How deep will you dig to find out the truth about your loved ones?

In a completely immersive experience, “The Mortality Machine” takes you through a laboratory After an illegal experiment caused five deaths, authorities quickly covered it up before loved ones could get any information. Now, five years later, the lab is finally open for inspection. Groups of friends and family of the five victims are gathered together to hopefully get some closure and some answers. Though what follows may raise more questions than it answers…

What makes “The Mortality Machine” stand out from some of the other immersive experiences in New York City is the active participation it requires from it’s audience. You are not simply observing a story take place around you, you create the story. Before you walk down the staircase that leads to the laboratory you are given a character, a backstory, and a connection to the other characters in the room. You are told not to break character under any circumstances, putting the success and ultimately the enjoyment of the show on your shoulders. From the moment you reach the bottom of the staircase, you are a loved one of someone who has died in this horrible accident. While this took a little getting used to for me, once I got the hang of it and began to act off of the other participants as well as the cast, I was able to really dive in to the experience.

Without giving too much away, as this is an experience full of mystery and surprises, the cast of “The Mortality Machine” did a wonderful job of maintaining the world that you are thrust into. Whenever another participant wasn’t playing along or you found yourself struggling to stay in the illusion of the world being created, they are always right there ready to respond to anything you have to say and bring you right back into character. In an experience that depends so much on playing off of the people in the room, this is essential.

Of course, I cannot talk about “The Mortality Machine” without talking about the incredible scenic design by Wildrence. From the moment you step into the laboratory your job as the participant/actor is made that much easier. The set is beyond detailed with notes and photos that “you” gave to your loved one, giving you that much more to pull off of and make your experience the best it can be. There are also countless little mysteries to solve that, without giving anything away, wind up being intrical in the story you are experiencing. There is never a point where you do not feel in the world.

Again, this show is what you make of it. If you go in ready to become someone else for a night and embrace whatever is thrown at you, you will most likely have a great time. Do this, not only for your own experience, but the experience of the other participants. It is much more fun for everyone when you all play along. I also recognize that while I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, there are those who would much rather be an observer and not an active participant in the show they are seeing. If this is the case for you, you might want to sit this one out (Though, I encourage you to jump in and try it anyway). But, if you are looking for a unique theatrical experience that puts you in control of its outcome, then I say take a trip to the the lab with an open and adventurous mind and see what answers you can uncover.

“The Mortality Machine” is presented by Sinking Ship Creations at Wilderence (59 Canal Street between Allen and Orchard, New York, NY 10002). It runs January 10-February 24th at 7PM.

It features: Daan Bootsma, Isaac Conner, Julia Jurgilewicz, Liz Law, Rita McCann, Kelsey Rondeau, Jessy Smith, Jennifer Suter,Rafael Svarin, and Allegra Durante.

It also features dance by Lara Marcin, design by Tommy Honton, production design by Orli Nativ, and Scenic Design by Wildrence.