The enigmatic Raven Queen has tasked myself and seven others with tracking down her treasured secretary Adrian Rook, who has been missing for two weeks now. Currently we’re visiting with Brendan O’Neill – proprietor of Whiskey and Welding – in the hopes that he might offer some clues or insight. “Do you have any idea what this might be?” he asks in a lilting Irish brogue, gesturing to a vaguely cubic wire frame on the table behind him. I haven’t the foggiest, so I ask for his thoughts. “I think it’s a lamp,” he answers, explaining how the idea came to him in a dream featuring the missing Rook. That’s three for three now, I think. Each tenant we’ve talked to has referenced strange dreams or had weird power surges whenever Rook’s come up in conversation.
The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook is a 90-minute remote production, hosted over Zoom for up to 8 audience members. The story unfolds through six 10-15 minute monologues with light interaction, bookended by prelude and postlude video clips. The general gist: The Raven Queen, enigmatic proprietress of Strange Bird Immersive, has asked you to help find her missing secretary Adrian Rook. In order to do so, the audience visits with each of the Strange Bird building’s five tenants in the hopes of uncovering clues as to the whereabouts of the errant Rook before heading to the office of the Raven Queen herself and hopefully bringing the mystery to a close.
It might be a stretch to call The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook immersive. While the audience does have to opportunity to occasionally ask questions or engage with the performers, they are mostly passive while the eclectic and quirky characters tell the story of themselves, their business, and how Adrian has played a role in their success.
In truth, there’s a healthy dose of magical realism running through The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook. The Raven Queen’s tenants, while outlandish for one reason or another, are not lamp shaded as weird or unusual. The Raven Queen collects oddities, and so in her domain the odd is utterly normal. Most often what’s presented is a familiar premise with a twist: a speakeasy serves secrets instead of booze, a photography studio focuses on accidental rather than staged pictures, and so on. It’s fun when it’s done well, presenting just enough exposition to give audiences the “what” that’s in front of them without getting bogged down in the “why” of how a given bit of strangeness works. And that’s something The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook understands well. The concept of each tenant’s business is presented matter-of-factly, as if it’s not the least bit strange at all, and then the character moves right on to the story they have to tell.
This approach carries over into the set design for The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook as well. Aside from the glowing bottles, the speakeasy looks like a bar. The whiskey and welding room looks like a workshop. Things make sense in terms of the props, layout, and costuming, and that helps a great deal with getting past the initial suspension of disbelief and into the fun stuff.
Given that The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook is essentially a sequence of loosely-related monologues, it falls squarely on the performers to make or break the show. Thankfully, the cast is very much up to the task. Whether it’s the disarming earnestness of Dr. Riley E. Newmark (Lexi Jackson), the conspiratorial demeanor of secret-sipping Vivan Mae (Amanda Marie Parker), or the Irish charm of Brendan O’Neill (J. Cameron Cooper), all of the Strange Bird cast bring unique, well-developed personalities to the table that fit their character’s premise and elevate the already solid writing. If there is a standout, it’s the deadpan pretentiousness of Prof. Gene Hazard (Bradley Winkler). His School of Accidental Photography is a silly idea. It’s obviously a silly idea. And yet Winkler’s portrayal is so genuinely passionate about it, so utterly convinced that he is onto something revolutionary, that by the end you’re left wondering if maybe he’s onto something after all.
It’s honestly tough to point out areas for The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook to potentially tweak or improve. It’s a show that knows what it’s about and delivers with flair. A pinch of the supernatural, a dash of peril, and a fair handful of light-hearted escapism combine to present an accessible mystery play, told through six largely self-contained monologues connected by the unseen influence of the show’s titular character. If anything, the lingering question is who else might the Raven Queen and her beloved secretary come to house within Strange Bird Immersive’s walls.
While much of the show’s remaining run is sold out, there are still some slots with room for the curious. Tickets can be purchased through Strange Bird Immersive’s website here, where you can also join their mailing list for further updates or contact them directly. In addition, you can connect with them on social media via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.