With each step down the spray-painted, concrete staircase, you feel yourself leaving our world and entering a twisted reality composed of an authoritarian regime, a pissed-off resistance and a little bit of drag. Cabaret Rising, a TBD Immersive production, is a mesmeric theatre experience in the Dupont Underground that leaves you wanting more.
TBD Immersive hosted the first Cabaret Rising experience last year, so the current production is more of a sequel than an original production. To set the scene: a year has passed since the execution-style shooting of a journalist on the cabaret’s main stage, causing the resistance to retreat underground. From what I gathered, the resistance is a group of activists who are hiding from the oppressive authoritarian regime that exists above ground.
Madame Martine, the leader of the cabaret, quickly becomes a suspicious character, but you have to figure out why on your own. Eventually, there’s an uprising and you get to choose your favorite leader before the show abruptly ends.
There are several layers of storylines involved, but I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers. Besides, those storylines are so nuanced that I could barely grasp them in the three-hour period I was there. This show is definitely one you need to attend multiple times in order to understand the full scope of it.
That being said, there’s a clever crossover between reality and the cabaret when many characters voice their complaints about the lack of toilets and heating in the Underground, which is an actual thing. No bathrooms means after the third glass of wine, you have to leave the show and cross the street to a nearby hotel to relieve yourself.
By far the best part of the show was the cabaret aspect, which features jugglers, acroyoga and some very tasteful stripping. With three acts featuring three to four performances each, the cabaret broke up the often awkward milling about that guests are subjected to when the stage is empty.
In theory, the immersive experience is great, but in practice, it was a bit lacking. Having a smaller audience could possibly help with this issue because it’s difficult to capture the full essence of the story when you have to wait in line to speak with main characters.
However, when you do get the chance to hear their stories, the characters themselves are very interesting. I didn’t meet a single actor that night who wasn’t completely transformed into their character, which is another one of the cabaret’s saving graces.
Eventually, I did relax and have a good time, but it took over half the show to get me there. With more guidance from cast members, a storyline with a faster pace and a smaller audience, I think Cabaret Rising could become a huge success.
Cabaret Rising runs through Sunday, March 4. Doors open at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets start at $55.
Dupont Underground: 19 Dupont Circle NW, DC; www.dupontunderground.org