SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE Celebrates Second Anniversary at The Back Room
Transporting audiences to an era of mobsters, moonshine, and murder, Cynthia von Buhler's SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE, one of the city's most unique, interactive, and surreal theatre experiences, proudly celebrates its two-year anniversary this month. Performing to sold-out audiences since October 2011, SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE brings an actual unsolved Prohibition-era murder to life in the downtown building that once served as mobster Meyer Lansky's hangout. SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE is performed weekly (Saturdays at 5:00PM) at "Spano's Club" (a.k.a. The Back Room) located at 102 Norfolk St. (near Delancey St.). Tickets (advance only and starting at $55.00) are available by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online at brownpapertickets.com.
SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE was created by artist and author Cynthia von Buhler, whose Italian immigrant grandfather, a speakeasy owner named Frank Spano, was shot and killed on a Manhattan street in 1935.
Though the shooter was caught, his case was inexplicably dismissed, leaving the question of motive forever unanswered. Long haunted by the mystery, von Buhler, whose mother was born the day her grandfather died, began interviewing family members about the killing and scouring autopsy reports, police records, and court documents. Inspired by a 1940s investigative technique called "nutshell studies," von Buhler first recreated the crime scene in an elaborate dollhouse diorama (which can be explored on location during each performance).
Von Buhler brought her miniature set to life in SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE, which was first intended to be a one-night theatrical staging (via a successful Kickstarter campaign). It has since become a hot underground theater ticket, going from monthly performances to weekly performances as it consistently sold out, and extending its run repeatedly over the past two years.
The SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE experience begins with a series of emails featuring actual 1935 news articles, court documents, and autopsy reports. Audience members also receive special instructions to show up dressed for a 1930's night on the town at a secret address, including the password they will need to enter. Upon arrival, an audience member has their palm read by a fortune teller, and is assigned a role ranging from shooting a mobster to aiding in an autopsy. Once they step through the tiny door, they are transported into a perfect replica of a speakeasy, where they can eat cannoli, sip hooch disguised in coffee cups, play cards with gangsters, enjoy burlesque performances - and witness a shooting, funeral, murder investigation, and trial.
Each show explores a different motive behind the murder, from jealousy over a suspected affair to a Mafia hit. As audience members meander through a speakeasy bar, a private alleyway, a bakery, and more, they are privy to conversations and whispered snippets from cast members about the victim's marital infidelities, mob connections, and other clues. The piece is constantly evolving based on new scenarios sparked by spontaneous interactions between cast members and guests, who are encouraged to become full-fledged participants in the unfolding drama.
"SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE is more than just a play - it is a time capsule that transports audiences to the scene of a riveting crime and then invites them to live fully in that world, erasing the boundary between themselves and the performers," said von Buhler.
The cast of SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE includes noted jazz violinist Russell Farhang in the starring role as Frank Spano, Nino Giaimo (Uncle Nino from MTV's "Jersey Shore" and "The Show with Vinny") as undertaker Dominick Grimaldi, burlesque star Kat Mon Dieu as Lena Doino, jazz musician Howard Fishman as bandleader Henry Azelrod, and soprano Katie Kat as Millie Nelba.
SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE has attracted a roster of guest performers that has included bestselling author Neil Gaiman, musician Amanda Palmer, downtown theatre icon Edgar Oliver, and others. New guest performers will be announced shortly.
SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE is presented by Stageworks Media. It is performed on Saturdays at 5 PM (5 - 7:30 PM) at "Spano's Club" (a.k.a. The Back Room) located at 102 Norfolk St. (near Delancey St.).
Tickets to SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE are now available for performances through December 14th (no performance on Thanksgiving weekend, Sat, November 30th). Tickets are available in advance only (prices start at $55; Packages and VIP tables are available - up to $145 per person). Tickets can be purchased by phone at 1-800-838-3006 or online at brownpapertickets.com.