Delusion: The Blue Blade
I consider Delusion: Lies Within to be an inflection point in my life. Before that, my Halloween experiences consisted of theme park extravaganzas, Haunted Hayride, and the like. After Delusion, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new world (apologies to Aladdin). A wide range of immersive experiences have debuted in the four years since that show, but there’s nothing quite like your first. Now Delusion’s new show, The Blue Blade, has debuted and promised a blend of their familiar format with some new changes. How does their 2018 spectacle compare to my first love?
The biggest departure, of which they pre-emptively notified fans, is the shift away from horror. Despite debuting in the thick of Halloween season, The Blue Blade is not scary, unlike Delusion’s first five productions. Instead, they classify it as an adventure story (it’s also got a healthy dose of sci-fi). I understand a contingent of horror fans is bummed to miss out on Delusion’s signature dark themes. However, I firmly believe the change in tone is for the best. First, it appeals to a wider audience; I’ve already recommended this show to many friends who would not otherwise be interested. Second, it frees them from the restriction of the autumn corridor. There is no seasonality to the show, so it can play year round! And it will–Delusion just announced The Blue Blade will return from February to June of 2019.
With a genre more my speed, and a venue change from an old mansion to a new multi-purpose space, I was more excited for this than for any other show this year. So excited that I went twice. Although the plot stayed the same, I noticed some nuanced differences, but we’ll get to those later. First let’s cover the basics.
The Blue Blade’s plot involves a mysterious artifact, a secret society, time travel, and shadowy cloaked figures. It also involves us, as recruits to the aforementioned secret society. We are tasked with an important mission and expected to “play our part,” as the Delusion tagline says. With ample guidance along the way, we are provided with plenty of backstory and world-building, both from an introductory video and the numerous live actors. It’s true that all of this information up front can be a bit overwhelming, and keeping track of everything is daunting. Thankfully, not everything is vital. The actors keep the story moving briskly, and it’s never hard to discern the overall gist of what’s going on. The surface level is readily accessible, and the deep dive is available for those who want it.
I didn’t see how Delusion could improve on the mansions-turned-sets from previous years, but The Blue Blade showed me. With more of a blank canvas to work with, the scenery is no longer confined to one dwelling, even one full of vampires or literary monsters. Now, the story can go anywhere (and anywhen), which it takes full advantage of! The plot lends itself to radical changes in the surroundings and all of it looks like you are walking through movie sets. So much detail and craftsmanship fills every space that it’s easy to get lost looking around, until the dialogue wrenches you back to the scene at hand. It’s not just recreations of real-world locations either. There are many creative designs that don’t quite fit our reality, as they are intended to show the consequences of mankind interfering with the fabric of time itself.
Creator Jon Braver has a background in stunts for huge Hollywood tentpoles like Iron Man and The Dark Knight. He uses his knowledge on Delusion to show off those stunt skills and more, making the shows more exciting than your typical immersive theater. There are fight scenes, fog, gunfire, wire work, two different kinds of otherwordly monsters, collapsing masonry, lighting effects, and so much more. These are some of my favorite moments in the show, and the plot makes sure to showcase them. It’s these Wow moments that make the most impact on my memory, the parts I can’t wait to relive with others who have gone through it. A highlight this year is that some of the participants get to be involved in the stunts too, if you take the right branching path!
Because I was able to go through twice, I saw small variations from show to show. Most obvious is the actors. Different actors played several of the main characters, despite both of my shows being in the same week. The program shows some of the main roles have six actors portraying them, and many actors play multiple roles. Not in the same show, but an actor may change roles depending on the scheduling. Each performance was very good, but personal preference means you may like one over another. Of course, this only matters if you go multiple times. I also saw some of the special effects work better, and some worked worse. With a lot of “movie magic” happening live, there is no way to correct if something goes wrong. The cast does an excellent job of making everything smooth, no matter what, and I wager that most people won’t even know anything HAS gone wrong, unless they see it again and it’s done right the next time.
Perhaps the best benefit of a repeat visit is knowing where the paths fork and getting to take the one you missed last time. On my second trip, I chose the path with the audience stunt, and I also saw part of the plot that was hidden for me the first time. It’s not perfect–I WANTED to do a certain action and tried to position myself accordingly, but the actor chose people differently than my first session. There was no way to communicate my preference without breaking the vibe for everyone, so I went along and was able to accomplish Plan B.
I loved The Blue Blade, but I believe it can be even better for future audiences. For one, the sound mix could use some tweaking. We meet some new characters coming in from a battle, and the sound effects nearly drown out the actors, who are saying what sounds like very important exposition. This was the worst, but not only, offender. In an action-packed show, it’s important not to let the flashy stuff overpower the important lines from the performers. And those lines are extra important because the plot is already convoluted. This isn’t inherently a problem; time travel always leads to complex stories. If there is a way to make the ambitious plot easier to grasp, it would allow the audience to get into the flow more and spend less time trying to keep everything straight in their heads.
The other major area of improvement may not be as easy to fix. My first group of 6 people worked well as we ran, hurried, and hid. In my second group of 8 people, the loss of urgency was noticeable. While running from a cloaked nightmarish figure, 8 people simply can’t move as fast through a single doorway, nor navigate narrow stairs. It’s a bummer to get your heart racing to escape, only to be stuck behind strangers who don’t seem to feel the slightest need for speed. It’s also fewer places to hide, more crowded for the best vantage points, and fewer individual actions for each person to do. Dropping the size back to 6 would be great (4 would be better), but the loss of revenue would be huge. 2 fewer people would be approximately $11,000 less for every week of the run. I don’t know the financials, but my hope is that the fall season of Delusion largely paid for all the sunk costs like sets and the spring extension can drop the audience size if they have fewer costs.
Play Your Part
My thoughts, if you can’t already tell, are for you to GO NOW! Oh right…you can’t. The Blue Blade is sold out for the entire run (late September to early December). Luckily, Delusion announced their first ever Spring Season Extension! The Blue Blade will close for the holidays and reopen in 2019, from February 14 to June 30. Tickets are already on sale here for the 15 shows per night, every Thursday to Sunday. Tickets are $95 or $115, depending on peak timing. New for this show is also a VIP package. It includes a ticket during peak hours, a behind-the-scenes tour, 2 drinks, a signed Blue Blade poster, a discount code for Delusion merchandise, and a collectible show ticket. The plot features tickets as a cool audience interactions, so the souvenir ticket is thematic. The VIP Package is $185 and available for the 8:00 and 10:00 shows each day.
Tickets aren’t cheap, but they are definitely worth it. While one of my sessions was comped, I paid full price for the other and I am very glad I did. And if you need help getting a ticket–look at what’s coming up before the relaunch! Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, and Valentine’s Day are all excellent times to tell people you want Delusion tickets as a gift. For that matter, you can GIVE them as gifts too. I think Delusion is the best way to introduce novices to the world of immersive theater. Don’t let their first experience be a smaller, “less risky” show, and leave them underwhelmed. Go big! Show them the best that immersive can offer and convert them to fans. That’s exactly what happened to me. Delusion kickstarted my love of immersive entertainment in 2014. I’m so glad it’s back and pushing the limits of what can be done. The world needs more spectacle like The Blue Blade.