I’ve never been invited to a VIP lounge in the heart of downtown Los Angeles until now. In a cozy upstairs bar with moody jazz sounds from the infamous Bobbi Gray, guests are invited to relax, have a drink, and socialize with a host of interesting characters all dressed to the nines. Despite the pervasive uncertainty of the Cold War era, still something feels off. It’s like you can cut the tension in the room with a knife. Guests keep disappearing into back rooms and you see people coupling off and whispering to one another. When one of the club’s regulars finally clues me in to what is going on, I am faced with a difficult moral decision: do I trust this person and betray my country to help them get information for a noble cause? Or, do I sabotage their efforts but inadvertently put myself and the lives of two innocent people at risk? Be careful who you trust.
From the makers of The Sideshow and The Severance Theory, CoAct Productions, in collaboration with Spy Brunch (Safehouse ’77) and Sampson Creative Enterprises (Grunge Shop Tavern), introduces their newest immersive experience COLD WAR LOUNGE: THE ASSET. Taking place deep in the Cold War, guests are invited to become special agents and play a strategic interactive puzzle game to uncover confidential government secrets. Guests are given only pieces of information and must work together to complete their mission. However, everyone is trying to get the same information and some individuals’ mission is to stop you from succeeding. Which side are you on? Who can you trust?
This highly interactive experience offers a wide appeal with a clever theme, engaging narrative, and talented acting. Given our current political climate and the tension depicted with Russia in the media, a Cold War theme is particularly apted and contemporary. However, there is not a burden on the participant to know information about the Cold War to enjoy this experience fully. The production team asks attendees to dress in elegant evening wear which furthers the immersion of participants into a swanky Cold War lounge atmosphere. A choice of one out of three delicious signature cocktails was also a nice touch that furthered the theme.
Another highlight is the compelling narrative that places participants in a role where they have complete autonomy and choice in how they want to strategize to obtain and share information. Even though participants may be selected to receive information, they have control over how to use it. This autonomy is what makes this experience particularly notable and interesting. Although I was only able to see one ending of the show, I would not be surprised to learn that there may be alternative endings based on attendees’ participation.
In this piece, a fun and dynamic cast also takes center stage as a major highlight. Participants have the opportunity to experience actor engagement in small group settings and in one and one dialogue creating unique and personal experiences. Of note, the jubilant Mr. Monday (Payden Ackerman) and delightful musical stylings of Bobbi Gra (Lyndsie Scoggin) set the stage for the evening at a quirky and exclusive lounge. Additionally, the shifting accents and intensity of Ivan, played by Alexander Demers, created a sense of urgency in uncovering the mysteries of the lounge which was evenly matched by the empowered expressions of Adelaide, played by Lauren Hayes. These characters contrasted with the calm coolness of Somerset, played by Graydon Schlichter, and mysterious stoic presence of Esmerelda, played by Deirdre Lyons. The characters and performance from talented actors made for an entertaining and elevated experience.
There was a sense of some unresolved narrative aspects in the experience. Audience members should expect little backstory regarding how they arrived at the lounge. However, this creates freedom in making choices and strategizing in completing your mission. Additionally, the ending of the piece is not as strong as the beginning and middle leading participants to potentially feel unsure of how the result of combining the information contributed to the conclusion of the experience.
Overall, the experience is very enjoyable and entertaining. Those who are new to immersives as well as veterans of the art form, are likely to appreciate the highly engaging and interactive nature of this piece. The small and quaint COLD WAR LOUNGE is a worthwhile and memorable way to spend your evening. For more information, and to stay up to date on all that CoAct, Spy Brunch, and Grunge Shop Tavern have to offer, visit their sites below: