Lafayette Hotel—-La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW), a ‘sight based theatre program’ has been around for the last five years.
“The Grift” is the latest in this series that allows theatregoers, or not to participate in a theatrical experience beyond the confines of an actual theatre.
Written, conceived and directed by Tom Salamon, “The Grift” is a convoluted, confusing and complex series of plots, subplots and mini subplots that requires one or several one’s to solve a mystery that happened right in the Lafayette Hotel if we are to believe Ben (Jim Chovick). His claim is that he was born in the pool at the hotel. His parents were two known superstars who had to keep his birth under wraps. His adopted family kept him there at the hotel where he was raised.
Ben shares this story on video from his death bed (with details) and engages the audience to help him bring down one Bernard X Kapsho the Chicago swindler. Our job; bring Kapsho down.
Here’s the caper: About fifty people gather in the Mississippi Room of the Lafayette Hotel. There they are broken up into five groups of ten, color coordinated so each will stay within that group. Just hope your group is smart, has a good ear for music, a knowledge of laptop’s, a good eye for comparisons is knowledgeable in Chess, is able to read out loud and is not shy about putting him or herself ‘out there’.
Four from each group are given a bracelet with a key affixed. After Ben’s spiel, the narrator (Matt Thompson) gives instructions and sends us on our way to our first ‘clue’. Each group goes off in a different direction and badda boom; the search for truth and The Grift is on!
Ben’s descendants, if you will, who at one time or another all worked at the hotel, helped raise Ben and were also scammed by ‘Chicago Joe’ . It is their job to lead us through the maze of clues we accumulate at each stop. Most are in a mall box we carry around (kind of like a treasure chest) or they in a locked (here’s where the keys com in) moneybag. A big spiel is given on how each is related and where they worked. Once we solve the particular set of mini-clues we are sent off to another location in the hotel to meet up with our next heir, or so we are led to believe.
Some of the offshoots of Ben’s family include, The Chambermaids Daughter (Yvette Angulo), The Bartenders Grandson (Lucas Coleman), The Nanny’s Great Granddaughter (Dana Lau), The Lifeguards Grandson (Scott Nickley) and The Bellhop’s Grandson (Chris O’Bryon). Quite a distinguished list of players they are. They all want their share of the money that was scammed from their uncle/great uncle, if you believe their stories.
Being the nice gal that I am, I’m not going to give anything else away. Just know that there is a bit walking, stair climbing, some food, and some mingling with Hotel guests (the night I attended there was a wedding going on in one of the rooms right off the hotel lobby and close enough for us to have been part of the guest list). In other words, in the lobby it was business as usual.
More than this participatory con game though is being able to discover the charm of a glorious 1946 San Diego landmark Hotel and many of its secrets.
Here’s a bit of trivia: More years ago than I wish to remember, my family and I uses to eat at the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar that is connected somehow to the hotel. The taste of the food is still a fond memory and I’m still trying to get rid of some of excess pounds I acquired from the delicious Blue Cheese dressing that was their signature dressing. Believe it or The Red Fox is still up and running, still located in North Park (very close to the North Park sign) and has a unique history of its own.
I think if you speak with anyone who’s been in San Diego a good bit of time or grew up here, they will have their own stories to tell. If you’ve not been inside, take a peek. And if you feel like a theatre experience that’s different and engaging, try “The Grift”. Perhaps you can be one of the super clue solvers.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through March 22nd
Organization: La Jolla Playhouse
Production Type: Mystery (WOW Series)
Where: 2223 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego
Venue: In and around the Lafayette Hotel