If something is happening at the McKittrick Hotel, it’s probably worth doing.
That’s a rule of thumb I’ve lived by since the first time I saw Sleep No More, the interactive, multi-floor telling of Macbeth also housed in the venue, and it continues to be true with its new immersive theater experience, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.
As audience members enter The McKittrick’s bar and music venue, The Heath, they’re immediately transported to a Scottish pub, seated at a table, and welcomed with live music and a shot of whiskey. Soon, each person is visited by a member of the five-person cast and asked to help “make snow” from napkins, which is used cleverly during the show to bring a Scotland snowstorm to life.
Finally, the music-filled show begins and we’re introduced to Prudencia Hart (Melody Grove), a 28-year-old expert in folk ballads with “a Ph.D. in the topography of hell,” as well as the rhyming cadence the cast uses to tell her tale. Before you can fully recall the definition of a ballad (“a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing”), Prudencia is driving through the snow on her way to speak at a conference in the small town of Kelso.
Upon arrival, she sees a fellow speaker, Colin Syme (Paul McCole), whom she can’t stand. Her disdain for him is worsened when she bombs her speech during the conference and winds up stuck with him at the pub after their respective modes of transportation — Colin drives a motorcycle — are buried in the snow. Between their discourse and some truly terrible karaoke performances, Prudencia has had enough and storms out into the elements… and her night takes an especially odd, profane turn involving a handsome devil in a white suit (Peter Hannah).
Grove, McCole, Hannah, Annie Grace, and Alasdair Macrae originated from The National Theater of Scotland’s run of the show and, given all the hats (and even red feathers) they’re asked to wear throughout it and the way they play throughout out the venue — on tables and laps and all — it’s difficult to imagine an alternative. Each clearly knows every beat as well as how to keep marching to it no matter what randomness the audience throws at them.
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart isn’t your typical holiday fare, but it certainly has the warmth one might crave from the theater on a cold, wintery night… and not just because of that welcome shot of whiskey. The limited engagement concludes on Feb. 28. A-