A Play Inside a Hotel: “The Grift”

The San Diego spectacle takes audiences on an immersive journey.

PART OF THE ACTION: The concept of immersive theater -- somehow involving the audience in the action -- is as old as the concept of theater, and as tangled up with what a performance means and what it means to be entertained in a live setting. The two can be separated from one another, and made distinct, but what is common to both is this: People want to enter a different world, and if an immersive theater happening in an unusual (read: non-stage) setting can fully and physically do that, then hoorah and hooray. Such will be the thrilling case when "The Grift at The Lafayette Hotel" lands at The Lafayette from Tuesday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Feb. 22. If you're wondering if this is The Lafayette in San Diego's North Park, which is a hotel, or, more specifically a "hotel, swim club & bungalows," you'd be correct. You'd also be correct if you surmised a regional theatrical powerhouse like the La Jolla Playhouse was involved, and that actors, and audience members, will journey around the property as the story unfolds. (One thing that is a near-constant in immersive theater: Stasis and staying put are major no-nos.) As for what that drama-filled hotel-based adventure will entail?

MEET BEN... a man who, "under mysterious circumstances, lived his entire life at the hotel." Ben befriends a "traveling con man" and then proceeds to ask the audience's help -- that includes you, if you attend -- to participate in "one final, giant swindle." How this grift goes down around the grounds, and what attendees witness, learn, and must do, is part of the immersive experience. But if you saw "Accomplice: San Diego," creator Tom Salamon's much-talked-about production that told the audience where to meet to start the show, you know the scintillate-y surprise-y vibe of the proceedings. For immersive theater is very much about flow, about going with it, and about changing direction, or hallways, or minds, sometimes within minutes. Above all, it is about being entertained, but in a fresh, non-passive way: You're part of the entertainment as it unfolds, as are your co-audience members. Ever seen a play in a hotel, a setting known for flair and allure in the real world? Start here, intrigued people.

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