A squishy red ball bounces past candles lit atop leather-bound books, past seats draped in elegant black cloth, past a bald man with sunken eyes and a large hunchback. A werewolf bounds past me, tongue out, chasing the red ball. Mine, mine, ball, he chants. A werewolf in a vampire den? Well, that’s truly an oddity. But a human as a guest for dinner in The Count’s Den – and I’m not the main course – I guess that is even more of an oddity.
BITE is the first of several episodic immersive dinners being hosted by The Count’s Den in Downtown Los Angeles. A 90-minute experience, BITE invites upwards of twenty guests into a vampire’s lair to dine amongst their family, servant, and pet. The first half of the experience is pure immersive bliss, as audiences are given the freedom to enjoy the Den, the open bar, and the characters within. It’s during this section that most characters will pull small groups away from the crowd for more intimate storytelling. The second half combines an appetizing dinner and dessert with plenty of vampiric drama to keep guests more than entertained. This combination of strong immersive offerings, open bar, and delicious cuisine place BITE as an absolute steal with a price tag of only $75 dollars.
Debuting during the Halloween season, BITE is bursting with vampire fun. The tone for this experience is not dark and brooding – or even overtly romantic and sexualized – but rather silly, fun, and a bit ridiculous in the best way possible. In other words, it’s What We Do in the Shadows and not Interview with a Vampire or 30 Days of Night. You are there are as a guest of Countess Yizidora and her family – there’s no need to be weary of any of these vampires, but rather, lean into their fun as much as possible. Familial issues are brought to light, jealousies lead to juicy drama, and you are included in all of it. As the night continues, there is a looming threat that becomes apparent, but I’ll let you discover that one on your own.
BITE is structured as a two-part immersive dinner, with heavy emphasis on the immersive elements at the start and the dinner taking precedent for the second half. For active participants, each character offers one to two interactions; while more passive participants can sit back, enjoy a drink, and watch the others play in the beautiful décor of The Count’s Den. Each of the children will take guests up to their room to give more insight into their personalities and the dark history of The Count; and Yizidora will lead you into an unexpectedly wonderful location for a short scene with her. Her brother, Leofwine, has some of the more exciting interactions, as he entertains the lobby with whispered conversations, serenades on the piano, and maybe a task or two. While there are no strong payoffs (this not an escape room) or full character arcs, interactions rarely feel rushed or stressful to do them all, but are just fun and engaging. Participants should be able to experience almost everything in an evening, and if they miss an interaction or two – the information won’t affect your experience in a strong manner. The story here is not a multi-layered narrative that shifts with each character, but rather, a fun, simple story that is fleshed out further with each interaction – and the focus is really on the interactivity and playfulness.
With heavy focus on the melodrama of The Count’s family, the show rests heavily on its actors – and they are perfectly campy, sarcastic, and/or enthusiastic. As the matriarch, Yizidora, co-director Elif Savas is seductive and carefree, and creates some of the best tension in the evening with her attitude. Libby Rose brings a perfectly dry humor and sarcasm to Sorana (Yizidora’s daughter); her retorts and improvisational skills ensure she’s a fan favorite for the evening. Sorana’s brother, Hakan (Anes Hasi), returns from prior Count’s Den experiences to reveal a much more pop-culture-centric side to his already mystical side; he’s flamboyant, fun, and playful. For those who lean into the darker side of things, Ian Heath joins the cast as Leofwine, who’s seductive whispers and lack of a personal bubble will either excite or creep out audiences – and Heath plays this with perfection. Meggy (Michaela Slezak) brings a youthful energy to the cast as an over-enthusiastic, vampire-loving super-fan, spending her first time in the Den – and Slezak brings a level of excitement that is infectious to all, except maybe Sorana. The cast is rounded out by Kelly McMinn as Dante, a werewolf puppy who loves playing with his balls, and Patrick Beckstead as Edmond, who can get you a drink, tell you evocative stories without words, and entertain guests even in the darkest of times.
As an immersive dinner, the food plays almost as strong a character as the actors – and the food is delicious. Provided by Edmond’s familiar who owns GaiGan Thai, guests are offered vegan spring rolls, Thai BBQ chicken, pad thai, and mixed vegetables. For dessert, coconut sorbet cools down the hot tensions of the night. For drinks, red and white wine, beer, ginger beer, and water is offered without end. While the food is not as opulent or encompassing as Disco Dining Club and the drinks not as handcrafted or designer as Drunken Devil, BITE offers all this at a price point that is less than a third of DDC and half that of a Drunken Devil dinner. It’d be hard-pressed to find a Thai dinner in Los Angeles with a bottle of wine and dessert that offers a better deal than BITE. The Count’s Den has found a strong method of introducing immersive theater with great food to a general audience that ranks leagues beyond your traditional murder-mystery dinner.
Finally, The Count’s Den itself provides the perfect backdrop for the evening. With lofted ceilings, walls lined with decadent frames, and candles burning brightly, the Den is gorgeous. It is perfectly themed for these vampires. Projections of candles, flames dancing against the wall, provide a nice technological touch – and details like blood bags hidden throughout ensure that the location feels lived-in. Sorana and Haken’s rooms upstairs offer a small insight into their characters via props – but we’d love to see more in future episodes. Almost every inch of the location is used, even the back patio; and while there’s no hidden secrets to uncover or rewards for exploration, it’s still an awe-inspiring space to just be in.
BITE is the perfect immersive night out, combining strong actors with delicious food and drink. It excels in telling a simple story that provides a stress-free evening where fans of any level of immersive knowledge can enjoy themselves: Veterans won’t need to fight to experience everything and uncover each morsel of lore, and newcomers can feel special as they are pulled into an intimate scene with a vampire. If you’re looking for a fun date night that’s cheaper than dinner and a movie, BITE was made for you!
Find out more about The Count’s Den and buy tickets to BITE on their website, Instagram, or Facebook page. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more immersive and horror experiences throughout the year.