Inside the darkened back room of an unassuming game house is the aftermath of what was presumably a chaotic affair, though my fellow Underwriters and I aren’t quite sure what events took place before we arrived. There are two dead bodies, one lying on the floor and one slumped over in a chair, and any answers they could’ve given us are lost to time. Artifacts from the 1980s are strewn about, from movie posters to arcade cabinets. It’s our job to turn back the clock and figure out what the hell happened here, and how to keep history from repeating itself.
Alt-Delete is the newest live-action experience from Jon Braver, the mastermind behind Delusion, in conjunction with The Great Company. The experience, which is more akin to a theatrical escape room than the immersive shows Delusion is better known for, is an addendum to last year’s The Blue Blade saga, which took guests out of the world of horror and into a time travel-laced action-adventure. In Alt-Delete, which is located in the back of Downtown Los Angeles’ Dragon & Meeple game café, guests assume the role of Underwriters, “cleaners” of sorts that travel to different points in time and assess what rifts might have occurred.
The experience plunges its brave Underwriters into the world of 1982, as they sneak into Dr. Evelyn Lowell’s office to try and right whatever wrongs happened there. Throughout the brief experience, there are spectacularly insightful overarching themes of destiny, time, and the duties that we take on, with a hint of the “No fate but what we make” philosophy from the Terminator films. The feeling of serving as an Underwriter is exciting and exhilarating, providing a dramatic sense of purpose that’s easy to get lost in, a credit to the immersion that is possible even outside the realm of feature-length shows.
The cast of Alt-Delete is kept to an extreme minimum in comparison to the several chapters of Delusion that guests have been treated to in the past, but the live acting that does exist in the disheveled back room is superb, witty, and era-appropriate. Elli Rahn fills the room with his presence once he springs to life, helping Underwriters and filling in gaps in the story. The narrative is quickly delivered and funny where it needs to be, while not undermining the tension and drama that unfolds. James Michael Cowan, before and after the bulk of the story, provides incredible creature work and physicality, portraying a being that seems to exist outside of time and space altogether. It’s terrifying and thrilling, and adds the perfect amount of suspense to the experience.
Meanwhile, the nostalgia presented is beyond charming, with retro devices and puzzles galore. The room even features an ‘80s-style callback to Carrick, the scene-stealing android from The Blue Blade. This, combined with the special effects, makes for a surprisingly action-packed narrative journey, with several moments leading to eye-widening, jaw-dropping moments of intensity. Objects and devices that one might think are long since dead or deactivated whir to life, supporting the feeling that time really isn’t acting quite as it should.
That feeling is ultimately what sets Alt-Delete apart from its contemporaries, both in the worlds of escape games and immersive theater. It’s at once both and neither, taking the best of each and blending them in a way that only a branch of the Delusion tree could. Time occasionally reverses in ways that are more convincing than they should be, like glitches in The Matrix. It’s a testament to the writing, performing, set design, and special effects that such lofty concepts could be put into practice in real time.
The fact that Delusion doesn’t put on an event every year is bittersweet. A season without it just doesn’t seem complete, but to rush such an experience would do a disservice to both Delusion and its loyal fans. That’s why small epilogues, or “side quests” like Alt-Delete, might be the perfect antidote for those in-between years. Alt-Delete is engrossing, pure fun, and most importantly, it fits right into the Delusion universe. So if this journey was a “test run” for something that we might see more of in the future, it should be considered an unrivaled success and a fantastic sign for the future of Delusion.
Alt-Delete has concluded its run. Find out more about Delusion and their upcoming shows (including their VR experience Lies Within) on their website or Facebook page. Check out our Event Guide for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.