Hollywood is the city of dreams, where young hopefuls come to make it big as famous writers and actors but despite popular belief, not all of them end up in porn. Some of them, like Bar of Dreams creators Alex Leff and Jon Pedigo, end up in immersive theater. Such is the story of Will and Connie, two friends who came to LA to make their dreams come true but found that reality was less glamorous than theyd hoped.
Our group of 4 was assembled in a nondescript neighborhood when we notice a man in a shaggy blond wig coming out to greet us. This is Connie. Hes a bombastic character who wears his sunglasses at night and remains steadfast in his conviction that hes bound for superstardom. He starts to tell us about this new bar and how theyre serving a drink that allows you to enter into any dream you desire. He starts out beaming with enthusiasm to share this experience with us but things take a bit of a somber turn when he reveals that he needs our help. It turns out the Bar of Dreams isnt a literal bar but something his friend Will stumbled upon, a bar in his bedroom that exists somewhere between reality and imagination. It serves drinks that transport guests into various dream worlds but also serves as a hub where Wills fears and memories are stored. The problem is that Will has grown too fond of spending his time at the bar and has started to pull away from reality. Connie needs your help to travel into Wills dreams and convince him that being with real people is more satisfying than retreating into his imagination.
In case you missed any of that, Connie has a great Powerpoint presentation that explains everything and after collecting our phones and waivers, were led into the bar where Will serves as our bartender. Each of the 3 dream sequences begins with a drink, 2 mixed drinks that are a bit on the sweet side but otherwise shouldnt offend anyones palette and 1 glass of wine, though you can receive the dream serum on its own if you dont want the drinks. Youll want to get to finishing them quickly, though, as there is only a limited amount of time youre allowed in the bar between dream sequences and theres a lot to discover. The main areas are a fort underneath Wills bed and a specially-built arcade cabinet. There are puzzles to be solved and a lot of fun nostalgic items and memory fragments that reveal details about Will and Connies relationship and the journey leading up to this point. There are even a few easter eggs that fans of immersive theater should appreciate. The arcade is perhaps the most impressive element and playing it yields some surprises that are quite unique to this show.
After a certain period of rummaging through these narrative fragments, a light near the door of the bar turns a certain color unique to each person and that person enters into a particular dream. Each dream takes place in the living room/dining room area and while its not a large space, they do a commendable job of transforming it while youre occupied back at the bar. The sequences themselves are a pinch of horror, a pinch of tragedy, and a massive helping of nostalgia and absurdity. Nerd references abound but theyre universal enough that most people should get the joke. While the show is fundamentally an absurdist comedy, there are levels to the presentation and Pedigos performance as Will conveys that the tragedy that lies below the absurdity. Theres no getting around that this is a low budget production but duos enthusiasm and improv skills keep things exciting from start to finish, particularly for active participants that prefer theatre to be a two-way street, where interaction with the actors is fundamental to getting the most of the experience and are willing to suspend their disbelief and pretend.
Tickets are $75 ($80 with tax) and for that price, it makes the most sense if youre already planning on going out for drinks. The shows approximately 2-hour length does reduce the sticker shock somewhat but if you remove the drinks from the equation, its a little harder to recommend at that price point. Taken as a fun bar experience that comes bundled with a show, Bar of Dreams makes for a great way to start or end a night in La La Land.
Bar of Dreams runs Friday through Saturday from May 10-25. Tickets available at https://barofdreams.ticketleap.com/la/