An aging man in an opulent crimson coat extends his free arm for me, his other holding a cane. As I wrap my arm through his, he gently shifts some of his weight to lean on me, and we begin our ascent up the narrow staircase. We walk slowly, careful of his old age and impaired gait; the wooden stairs creaking with each step we take toward our destination. Soon, a haunting melody drifts through the air. The old man retrieves his arm from mine and bids me forward. I step toward a violinist swathed in a black flowing gown, the final stair sighing under my shoes, and I arrive at the The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray.
Following their glow-in-the-dark immersive dining collaboration with Nakamura.ke Mobile Kitchen in August, Disco Dining Club returned to bring a lavish, new two-night dining experience in their second Halloween treat, The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray. Once again partnered with The Grim Wreather, DDC took over the private attic of the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood and transformed it into “an immoral feast for the immortal.” Each night, audiences of roughly fifty were invited into Dorian’s attic to enjoy a 4+ hour, 5-course meal, themed cocktails, live music, and immersive entertainment which included Dorian himself – both the young and beautiful incarnation, as well as the decaying living portrait. After being treated to a sumptuous meal and libations, guests were encouraged to let their own hedonistic urges run wild in the dancing room.
The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray was inspired by the 1890 Oscar Wilde tale of a hedonistic libertine who sells his soul to Faust in order to remain beautiful forever – his portrait grows old and weathered instead of the living man – which is where the horror aspect of the evening took center stage. The mood and aesthetic of Dorian Gray’s attic – already eerie with its cadaverous table settings, disembodied hands, dripping candles, and smoking punch bowls – relied heavily on the living portrait. Throughout the course of the evening, during which youthful Dorian (Juliet Deem) offered guests poppers (actually pumpkin spice essential oil) and urged them to drink more, the actor portraying the portrait (Matthew Maguire) became more decrepit and gory through the artistry of make-up artist Gabriela Aquino. Sitting in a life-size portrait setting, Aquino would enhance the grotesquery of Maguire on full display of the audience, infusing the 1890s tale with a modern twist. At first simply made up to look old, Maguire transformed into a bloody and rotting creature as the young Dorian and the audience itself continued their gluttony.
In addition to being able to engage with the two Dorians, those in attendance could take in the mimes roaming the area, or enjoy the expert violin music played by Alma Cielo. Like in their previous Halloween event, The Flowering of the Strange Orchid, guests were encouraged to dress for the occasion, inspiring 1890s attire all the way to fantastical or present-day costumes, which enhanced this feast for the eyes. The attic became a living, breathing creature; there was always something to draw the eye and delight the senses.
I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud The Grim Wreather for his intricate and macabre designs, which transported guests into a truly depraved 1890s attic. The nuanced décor filled the room: antique furniture – some even hanging from the ceiling – portraits lining the wood-paneled walls, body parts in jars or trying to escape from a chest of drawers, a glowing trunk filled with mystery, and the life-size portrait which was draped in linens, moss, and a grim reaper sculpture. Each of the three long tables showcased several hand-crafted centerpieces inspired by the novel; skulls hidden in floral arrangements, model ships of the era, and taxidermy animals and skeletons featured prominently as guests dined in splendor.
The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray, with all its beautifully transportive aesthetic, would not be complete without Disco Dining Club’s encompassing dinner experience. Returning from last year’s event to cater the excellent 5-course meal was Laurent Quenioux. Perfectly portioned, the excellent meal included smoked haddock and eel, a lobster salad, pheasant ballotine, and beef wellington with prosciutto ham (my favorite course of the evening). Dessert was appropriately Autumn-themed with a scone, pumpkin trifle, orange curd and choco cinnamon pudding. After the delectable meal, East Boston Oysters treated guests to caviar bumps to cap off the evening.
With each course came a new, perfectly paired libation from Happy Hour Agency, all aptly named in theme. The cocktails ranged from coffee liqueur and whiskey (Yellow Skull Moon) to Mezcal and pineapple served in a plain tonic bottle (His Darling Jewels) to a small gin and lemon nightcap (Fountain of Youth). I personally enjoyed the Date with Faust the best: a combination of batiste rhum, absinthe, brandy, spices and apple that was served in a large punch bowl overflowing with fog that crept over the tables.
Disco Dining Club and The Grim Wreather have succeeded once again with The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray. By fully transporting audiences into another world and treating them to an opulent and delicious meal and tasty cocktails, DDC has created an immersive experience in which guests can be spoiled and live a life Dorian Gray would approve of. It was a truly impressive evening with engaging performers, inspired setting and props, and a meal worthy of royalty. I commend DDC for being so sinfully brilliant.
The Depraved Attic of Dorian Gray has currently finished its run. For more information on Disco Dining Club and their upcoming events, see their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Find more information on The Grim Wreather on his website or Facebook page. Check out our Event Guide for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.
All photography by Lynora Valdez