“We ask for your minds and we ask for your hearts. Are you ready to gamble with the unknowable? We may be liars. This all may be an illusion. But aren’t illusions half the fun? With all battles, losers may lose, and winners may also lose. Once it begins, you must play. It’s the best, you simply must—but until then, you may speak with any of the vagrants that wander the halls of C(ovell). Outhouses on your right, mischief on your left. Now let’s go play.”
Enter a enchanting world, a world full of characters, full of wonder, and full of games. This world may have similarities to your own, but with a slight difference. It is populated by entertaining characters that aren’t quite human. But don’t be afraid to make waves, introduce yourself; they are a wonderful bunch to interact with. There is The Speaker, who’s happy to welcome you to C(ovell) and acquaint you with the game and its rules; there is a family of clowns, each member having a distinct personality congruent with their name and an intriguing story to tell; there’s Ms. Vaga, a fortune teller eager to tell your past, future, and beyond; and there’s Lion Tamer, who may know a thing or two about taming wild aspects of your life. But do not think that this is just another side-show—because it’s not; it’s so much more. Each performer has a fleshed out back-story, an engaging personality, and a role to play in the game. In the post-show you can mingle with your fellow guests and if you are lucky you may leave with unique gift to remind you of your experience—just make sure to ask.
So what exactly is the game? Well that’s hard to say. Not because I’m trying to be mysterious—but rather because it’s hard to determine when the game begins and when it ends. I’d almost propose that your game is always being played, but when The Speaker leads you into C(ovell), the characters inside become a part of your game. Your greatness intertwines with theirs, and you become part of something greater. Isn’t that what we all desire after all? As the game begins you will quickly realize that it is not like any other drinking game you have experienced. Drinks help to facilitate its enjoyment, but they are in no manner required to have fun. Instead, it’s more of a game of secrets, a game of truths, a game of magic, and a game of change. As your team is assigned to you by fate, you quickly meet new friends, gaining an instant and intimate relationship with everyone around you by learning what lies inside of their hearts. Tasks will be presented that may involve admitting a secret, completing a dare, pointing out someone of interest, or partaking in a bit of illusion. Always keep in mind that an element of chance is prevalent throughout the evening. Leave your competitive nature at the door and enter this world ready to have fun, to play, and to be a part of something extraordinary.
The actors are what truly define this experience. Carrying the narrative and the spirit of the night, they are its heart and soul. I found myself laughing, smiling, and raising my glass in solidarity with their aspirations and plights. Characters showed us that they were vulnerable, exposing their wounds for all to see, and in turn causing me to empathize with their shortcomings. The emotion they poured into their performance caused me to feel for them in a unique way that was unexpected and a rare opportunity to expand my emotional range. Moreover, Covell, the bar in which the experience was named for, was as much of a character as any of the actors. Entering through a secret passage way, you are transported into the belly of a building drenched in oddity and uniqueness. The event was designed specifically with the bar in mind: from the entrance to the back room, to the large table in its center, and the store front windows in back. Annie Lesser has seized the opportunity to design her shows for The ABC Project around hand-picked locations and this is a phenomenal example of what she can do with this concept.
While a price point of $175 dollars may be intimidating to most, I can confidently say that this show was worth it. The acting was superb, the wine (and beer) was ever flowing, and the food was tasty. The show (including talk back) was nearly four hours long, and we only left because the bar was closing. I could have stayed for hours more watching Happy tap dance to Sad playing the accordion, participating in the The Doctor’s astonishing magic tricks (seriously, he could have had his own show), or enjoying the many instruments that K. Lutz could play.
C(ovell) isn’t just a game, it isn’t just a side show, it isn’t just an open bar; no, it’s a carefully curated immersive experience with a narrative, a theme, and a heart. It’s a magical evening spent drinking with friends, sharing secrets, and learning of another world. It’s a piece of art. Do yourself a favor and see this show. It is fun, it is entertaining, and it is emotional.
“Birds on walls may not be free,
But as for you and me,
We fly as far as the world we see.”