By Esther Zuckerman
Updated September 08, 2014 at 04:05 PM EDT

The most impressive part of the one-act play Spike Jonze directed and co-wrote with Jonah Hill for Opening Ceremony’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection: the setting.

That’s not to knock the clothes, which were ostensibly the focal point of the piece—after all, the play was composed for Fashion Week. Nor is it to say that there weren’t good actors on stage. The cast consisted of stars like John Cameron Mitchell, Bobby Cannavale, Catherine Keener, Rashida Jones, and Elle Fanning.

But when the curtains opened to reveal that the audience was actually sitting in the back of the Metropolitan Opera House, looking out on its plush red seats and famous chandeliers, everything else became almost secondary. Seeing one of New York’s great institutions from such a rare perspective elevated the evening’s proceedings.

In the event’s program—which featured such tongue-in-cheek stories as “Top 10 Showbiz Essentials” by Fanning—Jonze, who has collaborated with Opening Ceremony before, explained that the Met was one of the first ideas he had for the show.

“Before I even knew what the story was, I just wanted it to take place at the Metropolitan Opera House,” he said in the interview with Hill and Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon. The location wasn’t immediately clear from the address on the invitation—109 Amsterdam Avenue turned out to be a loading dock, which guests were ushered through before finding their seats behind the opera’s curtain.

The play, titled 100% Lost Cotton, didn’t have anything to do with opera or Lincoln Center. Jonze and Hill’s one-act is a meta take on Fashion Week, in which fictionalized versions of Humberto Leon (Mitchell) and his stylist, Brian Molloy (Cannavale), prepare for their upcoming show. Fanning played Julie, an eager young model who encounters Bella (Dree Hemingway), a name-dropping 20-year-old, who fancies herself an It Girl and epitomizes the worst fashion world stereotypes. “I also do musing,” Bella drolly tells Julie, who wants to go to college and turns out to be something of a wiser-than-her-years, bubbly math genius. Later, Bella explains that supermodel Karlie Kloss, who appeared as herself, is “like in her late early 20s.” (Kloss is 22.) Throughout the play, Humberto and Brian survey the Opening Ceremony collection on a variety of models—”Will someone please tell casting not to send us any hideous legs,” Humberto shouts at one point—giving the audience a chance to check out the latest wares. Keener spewed profanity as version of Leon’s co-founder Carol Lim, while Jones dropped by as Vogue editor Lisa Love, who, in the context of the play, is writing a piece about the collection.

Though the play at times struggled to be more than an insider-y advertorial sketch, Jonze and Hill’s effort featured attempts at dramatic tension and actual criticism of the fashion world’s image obsession. Bella reckons with her decision to be a model after a disastrous encounter with Humberto and Brian, the latter of whom she thought was her friend thanks to a drunken encounter at a club. “They made you feel like the ugliest girl in the room,” Bella says, describing her life as a model, before revealing what she loves about fashion.

Brian, meanwhile, is in love with Humberto’s husband Patrick, a revelation that ends in a fistfight. (“Fucking Fashion Week,” Alia Shawkat’s character, an assistant, quips.) Their tussle eventually, and awkwardly, leads to Humberto revealing the concept behind the collection. “This whole collection is about the summer of ’91 when Carol and I used to go pool hopping,” he says, recalling halcyon days when “it was just fun; there was no pressure.” After Humberto’s epiphany, all Brian and Humberto need for their show is a song, which Julie happens to provide. She starts crooning Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” and soon the rest of the cast joins in, lending the show a zany, if sort of haphazard, finale. Fanning, it should be noted, has a lovely voice, even if its not the type of singing one usually hears at the Met.

At the end of the show the audience was instructed to walk through the models, and a throng of people crowded on the Met’s stage as the cast mingled and posed for pictures. Mitchell told EW that Jonze “hoodwinked” him into being in the play with his charm. “He can get anyone to do anything,” Mitchell said. “Because I haven’t acted on stage since the ’90s.”

Mitchell, who happens to be directing Fanning in an upcoming Neil Gaiman adaptation, hasn’t acted on stage since playing his creation in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “I’d only seen one other fashion show in my life,” Mitchell said. “Obviously this is as different as it gets. So maybe it raises the game.”

For Fanning, a fashion world veteran, this was her stage debut. “It’s incredible. It’s never been done before,” she told EW. “I’ve never done a play. It’s at the Met, and, like, no one knew it.”