I want to live in your mouth.
There is something inherently creepy about puppets. James Wan, the modern horror maestro involved with the Saw, Insidious, and Conjuring franchises, agrees. On Instagram and Twitter, his handle is @creepypuppet. Yet puppets also represent something innocent and youthful. The most beloved children’s show of all time, Sesame Street, utilizes puppetry extensively. Puppets can feel easier to talk to than another person and are even used in therapy.
A new immersive show called I want to live in your mouth. combines both of those aspects into a short story told for a single audience member at a time. Inspired by childhood nightmares, guests begin in a dark and shrouded children’s room, where a recorded voice immediately puts disturbing thoughts into your head about what might be directly behind you, even as you are warned to only look straight ahead.
Soon, the sole speaking character (played by one of three rotating actors) emerges and begins to guide you through the dark corners of their mind and memory. It’s just you and your guide…until it’s just you. This show excels at creating dread in your imagination. Did something just brush your face? Did something just move in the dark? Was that a footstep?
You won’t be alone the whole time, although you may wish you were. Along your journey you will encounter a “collection of unforgettably nightmarish residents,” all created by a variety of puppet artistry. The exact nature of the creatures and their desires is alluded to, but there is enough wiggle room for different interpretations of what you might see.
I want to live in your mouth. makes maximum use of a small space with multiple environments, sets that seem to stretch into the darkness, and unique transitions between scenes. The eerie lighting shows just enough for you to see what’s intended, while leaving you wondering about what else might be hiding in the shadows. It’s truly an impressive feat of production design.
Writer/Director David Ruzicka has a background working with theme parks and is a veteran of CreepLA, which has put on shows like Awake and Lore. Creative Producer Eric Vosmeier has worked on a wide range of brand activations and immersive experiences. Together, they lead a team of “technical experts, environmental storytellers, and immersive theatrical performers in a nod to classic body horror and dark fantasy films of the 80’s and 90’s.” Talking to them after the show, I found it clear that their experience has greatly helped turn this small, 20-minute show into something that feels grandiose and focused at the same time.
I want to live in your mouth. is definitely intimate, but it is not “extreme.” There is physical contact with your guide (nothing sexual), kneeling and crawling, and you may briefly touch latex, which could be an allergy problem. The show is for ages 18 and over, but I still would not classify this as anything that would be off-putting to someone already interested in the subject matter. It’s not an extreme haunt. The contact is very personal, and I can see how some people may not enjoy that. In terms of intensity though, I would say the show is closer to a PG-13 rating than an R.
I am constantly surprised by the variety I’ve seen in my still-limited exposure to immersive theater. Shows like I want to live in your mouth. reinforce that it’s not only the big-budget shows like Delusion that are memorable. This personal, independently-produced show delivers an impactful performance and visuals, with moments I will remember and tell others about for quite some time.
I want to live in your mouth. runs Thursdays to Sundays through May 5th in North Hollywood: 4850 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91601. Shows run every 20 minutes at night and are $47.50. Tickets can be purchased here.