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Punchdrunk 'Immersive Theater' Group Seeks to Replace Mega Clubs in West Chelsea

By DNAinfo Staff on November 10, 2010 11:28am

The proposed home of
The proposed home of "Sleep No More" at 530 W. 27th Street.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — The former epicenter of West Chelsea's chaotic club scene could soon host something with an entirely different tone — a British theater company's Shakespeare-Hitchcock hybrid production.

Former nightlife tenants at 530 West 27th St. include mega clubs Twilo and Sound Factory. At one point, the property served as a veritable mall of lounges, simultaneously splitting floor space between Spirit, B.E.D., Home and Guesthouse.

But now, London's Punchdrunk theater troupe wants to move its "immersive theater" experience into the six-floor building, representatives said this week at a meeting of Community Board 4's Chelsea liquor licensing committee.

Barbed wire and grafitti still mar the lot next door to the former club space where
Barbed wire and grafitti still mar the lot next door to the former club space where "Sleep No More" hopes to set up shop.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

The shows, which in England were carried out in abandoned spaces including a power plant and subway station, blends live performance, music, dance and installation art.

Productions including "The House of Oedipus," "Midsummer Night's Dream," and "The Masque of the Red Death" allowed audience members to roam the corridors, rooms and staircases, where actors play out individual scenes, on their own. Theatergoers can spend as much or as little time in each as they chose.

The goal is to create a "cinematic feeling," according to Jonathan Hochwald, CEO of Madstone Productions, which is representing Punchdrunk in New York.

"You really feel like you're in the art in a way," Hochwald said.

Punchdrunk, which performed in Boston with the American Repertory Theater in 2009, has wanted to come to New York for some time, but Hochwald said that acquiring the right venue posed a challenge.

"Finding a space like this in Manhattan is so impossible," he said.

The 530 West 27th St. property sits across the street from the back entrance to Scores strip club and the former home of notorious night club M2 ultra lounge — where a proposal for a new 2,300-person occupancy club was shot down at CB4 just last week.

While in New York, Punchdrunk would like to perform a show called "Sleep No More," a reference to a line from act two of "Macbeth." The show recreates Shakespeare's tragedy inside a Hitchock-inspired 1930s hotel.

The operators of "Sleep No More" hope to offer eight shows per week, with two performances at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

CB4's committee unanimously agreed to recommend approval for Punchdrunk's liquor license. The full board will consider the application on Wednesday, Dec. 3.