The Shadow Space
One of the things I like best about immersive entertainment is also one of the reasons it can be challenging to introduce it to new audiences. It simply refuses to be put into tidy little categories. “The Shadow Space,” the latest effort from The Best Medicine Productions, is a stellar example of that. Asked to describe it, the best I can come up with is that it’s Immersive Theater meets Escape Room meets Murder Mystery Dinner Party, minus the dinner. If that description doesn’t confuse your peers, then congratulations! You’ve got awesome friends.
The show positions the audience as recently-deceased spirits being led on an introductory tour of the afterlife. To acclimate to our new ghostly existence, we are shown how we can observe the living, although our interactions are limited. We can hear and see them, but they won’t notice us at all. We can manipulate certain objects that are charged with “psychic energy” but not while they are looking at those objects. And we can leave those objects in a different state than we found them, in order to send messages to the living.
During the course of the evening, something nefarious happens. We spirits, being privy to secrets that the living hide from each other, are the only hope for justice to be done and the guilty party exposed. Doing this requires eavesdropping on private conversations, finding clues to motive, and ultimately using our collective judgment to help the living (we hope).
Early on, “The Shadow Space” hews closer to immersive theater, as the characters enter the scene and their stories are revealed. The four actors, including creator Shelby Boyd, are quickly but clearly sketched out so the audience understands their relevant background. At this time, much attention is paid to exploring the set (a real house), searching for items with psychic energy, and listening to how the characters interact.
Eventually there is a major event that causes the show to switch genres a bit. After all, it is many things all at once, and not exclusively any of them. The audience is increasingly comfortable and confident and takes a more active role. I was still interested in seeing the characters interact with each other, but this is a situation where you can’t do both very effectively. It’s your choice how to engage with the show, and as someone who suffers from Immersive FOMO (I want to do all the options), I struggled to decide.
Luckily, all the spirits are essentially on the same “team.” If you miss anything, they are happy to fill you in on aspects you were unable to see for yourself. This did a lot to assuage my indecision and I was able to fill in most of the blanks with help from the group. In fact, the audience interacts with each other so much in the second half that the actors become secondary for at least part of the time.
Eventually all the various formats and activities coalesce into a moment of truth. The show has the flexibility to alter the ending based on the choices made by the audience. The actors, having heard everything we’ve said, are able to flow into the appropriate roles smoothly. After the show concludes, our hosts reveal the outcome of our selections, which may not have ended up as hoped. Last, there is time to discuss questions and talk to the cast if desired. Also, this is the only show I’ve been to that offered fresh-baked cookies, which is awesome.
The run of “The Shadow Space” has concluded, but Shelby intends to bring it back near the Halloween season. Now that the format has been proven to work, the next run may get more ambitious, with even more possible endings, more showtimes, and potentially even changing the story for a spookier time of year. The website has a signup link to stay informed for the next run here. If the story changes, and the versatility of the format offers even more interactivity and genre-crossing entertainment, this is absolutely something I could see revisiting!