CREEP LA: AWAKE
For all I know, I might still be inside AWAKE. Such is the near-hallucinatory effect of the latest in Just Fix It Productions’ CREEP series. Now in its fourth year of offering Halloween thrills to Los Angeles, along with other non-seasonal shows (like The Willows), CREEP Los Angeles has created something wholly unique and memorable. It’s increasingly hard to stand out in the LA Halloween market, but I can’t imagine anyone forgetting AWAKE.
Upon arrival, we are told the fairly simple rules, the most important of which being DO NOT SPEAK. We are then divided into two groups, and anyone familiar with modern immersive productions knows what that means. Multiple paths and separating you from your safety net of friends is a perfect way to disorient you and add to the chaos that AWAKE is about to unleash.
Located in an entirely empty floor of a building downtown, the huge space (60,000 sq. ft.) is a perfect blank canvas for the creators. The mood is set from the moment you enter the elevator. I avoided doing much advance research, preferring to let the experience engulf me with no preconceived ideas. It was the right choice. From the first moments, the word “dreamlike” seems most appropriate. The set is dark and foggy, yet clearly recognizable. The details fade into blackness around the edges, as if the mind hasn’t yet filled in those spaces. The graceful movements of the performers add to this trance-like state of being. Only up close, when you can see their faces, do you realize something is not quite right. And when they start whispering to you, there is no doubt that we’ve entered nightmare territory.
Once the relative tranquility is shattered, it’s off to the races. Breaking further into small groups is wonderfully welcome. Nothing ruins an immersive piece like a dozen other people all trying to get themselves into the best position. My group was only 4 people, which allowed me to see and hear everything up close. Additionally, small groups allow you to maintain a bit of agency if you want to move around. Our group was led around the massive space at a quick pace, seeing glimpses of other sets in the distance, until we arrived at the first scene.
CREEP is structured as a series of vignettes connected to each other thematically but not narratively. This allows for a wide range of stories to be told, and a “choose your own adventure” feel. Except, of course, that you’re not choosing anything You’re at the mercy of the “track” you are placed on by the performers. The scenes offer a chance for a story to develop, effectively using the dark spaces and innovative, but rarely elaborate, sets. I love that several had a real story progression, with a conclusion that wrapped up the narrative, often in a surprising manner, but not quite a “twist.”
Runnin’ Down a Dream
While the scenes give a chance to catch your breath, the transitions are the opposite. Frenzied energy of swirling bodies and images makes it necessary for performers to take you by the hand or arm, to ensure you don’t get lost in the madness. There is actual running involved, which added to the intensity of the moment. I do not believe that walking would have gotten me lost in the performance, but at the same time, I didn’t want to risk it.
Of course, nobody gets lost–at least, not physically. Your mind, though, may have a hard time keeping up. From quiet tales to loud rainstorms, from box forts to giant puppets, and from comfy beds to insane dance parties, CREEP is nothing if not unpredictable. You will be on your toes the entire time, and if a particular segment doesn’t appeal to you, just wait five minutes for something new to come along. My overall impression of AWAKE is one of mood. It strikes the perfect tone of eerie and melancholy, without anything gory or (ugh) “extreme.” CREEP expands what kind of atmosphere people should look for in a Halloween event.
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Emerging back into the October air comes too soon. Despite the unsettling nature of much of the material, the show still feels welcoming. CREEP LA: AWAKE is a shared experience that returns you to waking life unscathed, but not unaffected. The next day I was already struggling to remember all the details of the show but very vividly remembered my feelings. This is one reason it’s great to go with friends. It’s perfect material for discussion, hearing others’ recollections, and filling in any gaps from your own memories.
I recommend CREEP LA: AWAKE to everybody. I believe it’s got something to satisfy all Halloween tastes (unless you’re looking to be chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac). It’s full of surprises, with creepy (no pun intended) imagery galore, and it will stick in your brain for the rest of the Spooky Season. You should hurry because it only runs through November 4th! Luckily, there are shows every Wednesday through Sunday, starting every 45 minutes (6 or 7 showtimes per night). More information, including ticket purchasing, can be found at their website here.