Creep LA: The Willows are Expecting You
The Willows family is ready to receive you…
I’ve been invited to dinner at the Willows’ mansion in L.A. to celebrate/mourn the passing of Jonathan Willows, who died suddenly and left a hole in the family. They are so glad I could attend their dinner party, along with 18 or so other of Jonathan’s acquaintances over the years.
Greeted by Lindsey, the astute family butler, I was welcomed into the lush mansion’s drawing room for drinks and chit-chat. Almost immediately, I was asked upstairs by Angela, an aspiring witch, to help Conrad, Jonathan’s developmentally-stunted cousin, in the shower. After handing Conrad a towel he couldn’t reach, I went back downstairs to receive drinks from Jonathan’s widow, whose grief was overwhelming despite the smile she forced as she poured drink after drink. Once all the guests had arrived, we were escorted to the dining room for an array of snacks and mingling.
After dinner, the guests were split up, groups led by different members of the Willows family. Told in bits and pieces throughout the house, the evening’s narrative played like a choose-your-own adventure. However interactive, though, the guests were on a predetermined track, some parts moving more smoothly than others. But the more we put into the experience by chatting with the family and our fellow guests, the more we got out of the night. At one point, I was singled out and left in a vulnerable position, which ended in a way that didn’t seem to pan out in the end. When what I expected to happen didn’t, I was a touch confused, but still caught up in the moment.
Of the three immersive Creep LA events I’ve attended, this was by far my favorite. More intimate and contained, I felt like I was actually involved in the Willows’ evening, albeit awkward and potentially sinister. I didn’t get the full narrative since we were split up, but I never felt that my experience wasn’t authentic. The actors were impeccable; there was no weak link and everyone stayed in character throughout the 2-hour event, however exhausting that must’ve been. Although I wasn’t 100% clear on the family tree, I was definitely aware of the dynamics between the characters, be it authoritarian, friendly or antagonistic.
The location really set the tone of the experience. Set in the Willows’ family home, the rooms were intricately designed, some with hidden secrets waiting to be found. From the private quarters to the backyard to the basement, the house felt like it has been lived in for years. The provided drinks and light dinner were a welcome surprise. I did not expect to be sitting near the head of the table, by the no-nonsense matriarch Rosemary, chatting about how I knew Jonathan while munching on cheese and fruit before our main course of vegan, gluten-free soup.
While the ending of our night was a bit confusing and abrupt, I believe that was the intention of Creep LA. The Willows brought us there for ulterior motives, not for us to be sufficiently spoon-fed a satisfactory conclusion to their dinner party. We were left wanting more. What happened after we left? As with some other immersive theater I’ve been to, the dinner guests could not help but compare notes outside, on an appropriately cold, foggy night. What did others experience? What did they see that I missed? What did they make of the Willows family?
The two other Creep LA events I’ve attended were more straight-forward, but an evening with the Willows offered the option for seconds. Every guest’s experience was unique, and would even be different upon a future visit to the home. What might I have missed during my first dinner party? Did the Willows find what, or who, they were looking for?
A dinner with the Willows is for adults due to alcohol and thematic material. I, personally, didn’t find it scary, but there were moments in which I could definitely see people being uncomfortable or creeped out. If the Willows invite you to their dinner party, be prepared to be thrown into the madness (or is it?) of a family stricken with grief over the loss of a loved one, and what they would do to bring him back.
Dinner reservations currently available through February 25th.